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20 May 2020 – Ecuador

Ecuadorian Red Cross Distributing Hygiene Kits, (IFRC,
Ecuadorian Red Cross Distributing Hygiene Kits, (IFRC, "Cruz Roja Ecuatoriana Brinda Soporte a Migrantes Durante la Emergencia por Covid-19," 27 April 2020,

While the number of confirmed Covid-19 cases has exploded in Brazil, Ecuador has experienced the region’s highest number of deaths per capita and the country has introduced strict containment measures – including curfews between 2pm and 5am, and heavy fines for quarantine violations. Having closed its land borders, the government launched a military operation in coordination with the Colombian military to monitor the border and to prevent irregular border crossings.

Ecuador was hosting at least 330,000 Venezuelan migrants and asylum seekers by the end of 2016, although the real numbers are thought to be considerably higher. In the past year, reports of anti-Venezuelan hostility have grown following a January 2019 incident in which an Ecuadorian woman was killed by her Venezuelan boyfriend. In response, President Moreno announced that he would increase patrols in streets and work-places to control the Venezuelan population and increase restrictions on those coming into the country. (The new system requires Venezuelans to be in possession of a valid passport, undergo a consulate interview, and pay a $45 fee.) Reports suggest that during the pandemic, anti-Venezuelan hostility has continued to grow which, coupled with many losing their previously meagre sources of income, has resulted in large numbers seeking to return to Venezuela.

Despite the closed border, some migrants are leaving each day. According to the Ecuadorian Red Cross, up to 700 are departing every day, though sometimes much fewer. However, the situation at the border with Columbia has been reported to be critical, with one newspaper reporting that on 1 May, “the [Columbia] police intervened with tear gas to prevent a group of Venezuelan migrants from crossing the Rumichaca International Bridge en masse.” Those who manage to return to Venezuela, meanwhile, face two weeks in government quarantine facilities. Information regarding the facilities is scarce, with NGOs denied access, but some migrant testimonies have painted a stark picture: schools and other similar facilities converted into quarantine centres holding hundreds of migrants at once, insufficient food and water provisions, and abuse from guards.

According to the Ministry of Health, as of 20 April 22 Venezuelans in Ecuador had tested positive, but most believe this to be an under-estimate. Although those who remain in Ecuador can access health care without documentation, one researcher commented that doctors must choose who to prioritise and in the current climate, they may place Ecuadorian nationals first. The Ministry of Economic and Social Inclusion is providing a pandemic aid package to the most vulnerable, which includes food and some legal services as well as emergency grants of $60 to families whose monthly income is less than $400, and the government has opened shelters to house the country’s homeless. But such assistance has not been aimed at the migrant community.

Moreno also announced the creation of a fund, the National Humanitarian Emergency Fund (Cuenta Nacional de Emergencia Humanitaria), to which all companies that generate income of more than US$1 million must contribute 5 percent of their profits in three monthly payments. However, the initiative was firmly rejected by both the industry and the country’s union sector. In addition, the government announced that a series of legal provisions would be enacted that would prevent the eviction of families for non-payment of rent while the state of emergency lasts and for 60 days after it ends.

The Ecuadorian Red Cross reports that it is providing support to migrants and refugees in the country, including distributing hygiene kits and food.

On 18 April, a prisoner died from Covid-19 in the temporary detention centre of El Inca in Quito, which currently holds 1,400 prisoners. In addition, three staff members employed in the same prison were diagnosed with Covid-19 and subsequently placed in isolation.