A Report from the Ecuadorian Border at Tulcan

A Letter from Asylum Access Ecuador

With Decree 1182 unveiled in mid-2013, our work has been focused on reaching refugees quickly while they remained within the 15-day requirement to seek refugee status. With four staff, Asylum Access Ecuador’s Tulcán office opened its doors in September 2012 and quickly began working with refugee clients close to the border with Colombia.

Initially, we focused our work on the border communities as a strategy to better serve newcomers within the refugee community. We were welcomed by the various international civil society organizations, public institutions and their networks, and this quickly enriched our policy advocacy work.

Making the most of this warm reception, we sought to expand our presence in the region and create alliances to overcome the barriers between organizations competing for refugees’ attention as well as other organizations’ leading presence in the province. This aperture led to the opportunity to build more alliances. Since then, we´ve made partnerships with institutions such as CARE and the UNHCR, who helped us coordinate activities like our Encuentros de Mujeres (women’s support groups).

Additionally, our relationship with the Imbabura Provincial Government (GPI) has provided an opportunity for collaborating on a project recently awarded by the European Union, “Improving access to rights of people in the context of human mobility in the north of Ecuador”, which aims to increase access to rights by strengthening institutions, local actors and protection networks. The project also seeks to reduce institutional weaknesses and to promote coordination between human rights protection networks in the northern region of Ecuador for the prevention, attention, and restitution of the rights to victims in contexts of human mobility.

Our agreement with GPI has already led to the creation of a weekly client attention space in the Imbabura provincial government house, which complements existing services and projects for refugees. In addition, it has enabled improved access to other public institutions such as the Ministries of Education and Social Action to respond to refugee rights violations more effectively.

More importantly, this agreement enables immediate access to the refugee population of Ibarra and other counties within Imbabura province, removing the need for refugees to make the long trip to Tulcán or Quito to receive our legal advice and accompaniment for the restitution of their violated rights.

Over the past few months, we have been able to expand our work and the protection space for refugees. We have worked strategically to identify major needs and formulate innovative responses to complement activities other organizations had already developed, thereby filling a gap and increasing our impact.

Greetings and best wishes for success to all from AAE Tulcán!

Magola Cuatin, Luz Mery Mesa, Nataly Narvaez y Maria Sol Beker.

Published June 2013.