The political and humanitarian crisis hitting Venezuela has accelerated the number of Venezuelans fleeing the country, including those migrating to Ecuador. According to the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR), between 2016 and September 2017, approximately 236,000 Venezuelans entered Ecuador. About three-quarters continued their journey south, leaving a net migration of some 62,000 people into the country. The UNHCR has also reported that Ecuador has become both a destination and transit country for Venezuelans on their way to Peru and Chile. Ecuador’s Ministry of Interior reports that in 2016, 102,619 Venezuelan nationals entered the country and 79,008 left.
As of September 2017, over 1,500 Venezuelans had applied for asylum in Ecuador, with monthly claims peaking at 222 in August 2017, the UNHCR said.
In theory, Venezuelan migrants wishing to reside temporarily in Ecuador can apply for several different visas, including a special visa for citizens of UNASUR member states provided for in the February 2017 Human Mobility Law (Ley Orgánica de Movilidad Humana) that allows Venezuelans to live and work in Ecuador with minimal requirements. However, according to the Venezuelans in Ecuador Civil Association (Asociación Civil Venezolanos en el Ecuador), an organization founded in 2015 to provide support to Venezuelan migrants, the cost of a visa (ranging from about US$200 to about US$500 depending on the type) is an insurmountable impediment for most Venezuelan migrants given their precarious financial situation.
Below are accounts relayed to Human Rights Watch by Venezuelans who fled the crisis and are now living in or were recently passing through Quito:
Petra Sofía Vásquez Rodríguez, 30, is a social communicator and graphic designer who worked in Caracas as a manager for a large movie theater company. She left Venezuela in August 2017 due to the economic crisis and lack of access to medicine for her visual disability. Vásquez said she is able to see with only one eye, has had very limited vision in that eye since birth, and requires daily eyedrops for her condition. Starting in 2015, she said, it became much harder to find the drops in Venezuela, and she would use them on and off. In the six months before she fled Venezuela, she didn’t use them at all because she could no longer find them. In Ecuador, Vásquez does freelance work, managing social media accounts of companies and individuals. In Ecuador, she has been able to find and afford the eyedrops she needs, and is planning to move to Argentina as soon as she has the money to do so.