Asylum Access Ecuador (AAE) is an Ecuadorian-registered NGO and part of the Asylum Access family of organizations. Founded in 2007, AAE is a response to the critical gap in rights-based refugee assistance in Latin America.
Ecuador hosts an estimated 250,000 mostly Colombian refugees, the largest population of refugees in Latin America. Of these, approximately 60,500 are registered refugees and 175,000 are asylum-seekers. Most refugees in Ecuador lack legal status. As a result, many find it difficult to work, enroll their children in school, access healthcare, and seek protection from further injustice. In addition, misinformation and fear deter many refugees from seeking status and widespread discrimination marginalizes refugees in Ecuadorian civil society.
AAE provides individualized legal advice and representation to refugees, helping them navigate the refugee status determination (RSD) process and access rights protected by Ecuadorian laws. Our Volunteer Legal Advocates (VLAs) provide personalized legal counsel and representation, conduct Know Your Rights workshops, and engage in policy advocacy and strategic litigation to promote greater fairness in the RSD process.
AAE also helps refugees resolve other human rights violations. We help refugees assert rights to police protection, safe and legal employment, public education, and social services. In late 2012, AAE began providing regular refugee legal aid in seven additional locations, including three towns along the Ecuador-Colombia border, where most Colombian refugees enter the country. These include Esmeraldas, Ibarra, Tulcan, Lago Agrio and Santo Domingo.
Through Know Your Rights trainings, AAE enables refugees to understand their options and how to exercise them. Through policy advocacy and strategic litigation, AAE transforms laws and policy practices for all refugees. For example, our advocacy led to the inclusion of refugees’ right to work in the Ecuadorian Constitution, enabling refugees to access safe and legal employment for the first time. We have also successfully advocated for improvements in transparency and accountability in RSD proceedings, helping refugees launch informed appeals for negative RSD decision.
In 2010, AAE began providing specialized services for refugee women survivors of gender-based violence. The “Encuentros de Mujeres” (Convenings of Women) provides a safe haven for refugee women to focus on healing and find the strength to pursue their rights. Led by an external psychosocial specialist, the Encuentros have helped an average of 100 women overcome trauma and take back control of their life each year.