Colombia and Ecuador: Population Movement - Information bulletin no. 1

This bulletin is being issued for information and reflects the current situation and details available at this time. The Red Cross Societies of Colombia and Ecuador, with the support of the Emergency Appeals launched by the International Federation of Red Cross and Red Crescent Societies (IFRC), are seeking funding and other assistance from donors.

The situation

Since August 23, 2019, Ecuador has witnessed an increased number of Venezuelan nationals entering through the international bridge of Rumichaca, due to new migratory measures established by the Ecuadorian Government.

According to the new measures announced by the Government, as of from 26 August 2019, all Venezuelan citizens will need a humanitarian visa to Enter Ecuador. Because of these new regulations, the flow of people entering Ecuador has increased considerably over the past days (according to Migracion Colombia, the Colombian national migration authority, this increased by 30 percent compared to previous weeks) and reached peaks of 3,000 people entering daily in Ecuador. The measure is based on Executive Decree 826 of July 25 and aims to organize migratory flows under the principles of orderly, regular and safe migration. On 23 August 2019, the Colombian municipality of Ipiales declared a state of emergency following the announcement of this measure and to respond to an increased number of people trying to cross to Ecuador. On 26 August, a sanitary emergency was declared by the municipality of Ipiales as there was no running water due to damage to an aquaduct; by the following day, the damage had mostly been repaired. In the evening of 26 August, protests at the border were reported; police were deployed to both sides of the border.

Migracion Colombia reports that on the weekend of 24 and 25 August, more than 11,000 Venezuelan citizens were able to complete the migratory process to leave Colombian territory through the Rumichaca border. In the morning of 27 August, a significant decrease in the flow of migrants between the north-eastern border of Colombia and Venezuela (Norte de Santander) was noted. From Ipiales, it is reported that there are very few persons crossing the border, and police presence is noted. As of the afternoon of 28 August, approximately 800 persons, including families with children, were reported around the border at Rumichaca, unable to cross.

Due to an increase in people crossing the international bridge in Rumichaca, people at the National Border Centre offices (CENAF by its acronym in Spanish), especially families traveling with young children and adolescents, have not been able to access the Refugee Housing Unit (RHU´s) or other locally available shelter facilities because of limited capacity (approximately only 250 places for pregnant women, women with children, and elderly people) and are therefore spending the night in the open. The government of Ecuador is working with the Ministry of Economic and Social Inclusion (MIES) and UNICEF to ensure protection measures and protocols are in place for unaccompanied minors or for those requiring special protection. From May 2017 to July 2019, 1,673,980 Venezuelans have entered Ecuador, of whom 341,561 have remained in the country, more than 115,000 of them with visas. As of July 25, 2019, the number of Venezuelan people that entered the country increased. Between July 26 and August 2 of this year, 13,713 Venezuelans entered the country, with an average of 1,714 people daily. From August 3 to 25, the day prior to the visa requirement, an average of 3,704 people entered the country daily.

The consequences of such a change in the regulation to enter Ecuador might increase vulnerabilities of the migrant population, especially for those requiring special protection such as women, children, and people living with disabilities. As people might increasingly try to enter Ecuador through informal border points, locally referred to as ‘trochas’, the concern is particularly high with regards to protection related issues, especially as people might find themselves at increased risk of becoming victims of crime, exploitation and human trafficking, without information on how to find support or report incidents to the competent authorities. In addition, migrants often reach Rumichaca unprepared for temperatures as low as five degrees and for the altitude and extreme weather conditions of the Tulcan area.

Since the application of the Ecuador´s new migration policy, there was a slight increase in the entrance of Venezuelans through CEBAF Tumbes in Peru (less than 1000 people per day). Migrations agencies from Ecuador and Peru have taken coordination measures to avoid cases of immigration limbo in case of not admission to Peru.

The Consulate General of Peru in Machala continues to issue the humanitarian visa, which takes between one and two weeks. According to data from Peruvian Migration agency, on average 8% of the people who present themselves at the CEBAF are inadmissible to enter Peru.