UNHCR opened the Ibarra Field Office in 2000, covering Imbabura Province, as well as two cantons in Pichincha Province, Cayambe and Pedro Moncayo. Strategically located half-way between the Colombian border and Quito, Imbabura has a long tradition of welcoming refugees and asylum-seekers. Most Venezuelans and Colombians seeking safety in Ecuador cross Imbabura along the Pan-American Highway; while Imbabura is a region of transit, and there is also a significant number of People of Concern who chose to locally integrate in Imbabura due to the opportunities to work in the agriculture, textiles and tourism sectors.
Despite the long history of hosting refugees, Imbabura is a conservative region, with high levels of xenophobia and discrimination. With increased arrivals of Venezuelans, there has been forced evictions of Venezuelans, and public protests against Venezuelans and service providers in various cities in Imbabura. Peaceful coexistence remains an on-going challenge for all actors. Furthermore, UNHCR continues to work on improving reception conditions, access to humanitarian assistance, local integration, as well as ensuring security and health in the context of COVID-19.