Ecuador Foreign Minister Mauricio Montalvo said Wednesday that Ecuador has not officially agreed to accept refugees from Afghanistan. The comment came in response to anger from members of the National Assembly and others following the announcement three weeks ago that the government would accept as many 5,000 Afghans evacuated following the U.S. withdrawal from its 20-year occupation of Afghanistan.
“We agreed in principal to receive a certain number of refugees based on a request from the U.S. government but this will not happen until specific details are resolved and it may not happen at all,” Montalvo said. “There are currently no discussions underway on the issue.”
As many of as 100,000 Afghans were evacuated from Afghanistan earlier this month and flown to the U.S. During the airlift, the U.S. State Department asked more than 40 countries, including Ecuador, if they would accommodate some of the refugees. “As a humanitarian gesture, we said we would be willing to host the refugees since it is Ecuador’s policy to assist those displaced by war, political conflict or other crises,” Montalvo said.
He added that the U.S. would cover the costs of transporting and locating the refugees in Ecuador and that the arrangement would be temporary.
According to National Assemblyman Guido Chiriboga, Ecuador is “overwhelmed” with refugees and migrants from Venezuela and other Latin American countries and cannot handle another influx. “There is simply a limit to how many foreigners a poor country can take in,” he said. “I understand that the U.S. government says it will pay for their care but I have seen no guarantee of this. I have also seen no guarantee that their residency would not be permanent.” He added: “Our first responsibility is to help people from our region and we already have half a million of them in our country.”