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Ecuador Opens Refugee Office On Colombia Border

Ecuador opens new refugee office along border with Colombia with UN help

24 June 2008 - The Government of Ecuador today opened its first refugee office along the border with Colombia with the support of the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR).

The new office, located a few kilometres from the Colombian border in the northern city of Lago Agrio, will provide advice to refugees and carry out interviews to decide the eligibility of asylum-seekers who are applying for refugee status.

UNHCR, which will support the running of the centre for the next year, welcomed the decentralization of the Government Refugee Office as a significant step towards strengthening refugee protection in the country.

With around 18,000 registered refugees coming mostly from Colombia, Ecuador has the largest refugee population in Latin America.

The Government estimates that up to ten times that number - between 180,000 and 200,000 people - may be in need of international protection.

UNHCR says the northern border region is a relatively under-developed part of Ecuador, and many of the agency's projects aim to foster development as part of its overall strategy for refugee protection. They include bringing sanitation and clean water to remote jungle communities where many refugees live, as well as working with the authorities to improve access to health and education.

ENDS

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