(Washington, DC) – Ecuador should ensure that all asylum procedures fully respect the basic rights of refugees under international law, Human Rights Watch said in a letter sent today, World Refugee Day, to President Rafael Correa.
Presidential Decree 1182, adopted on May 30, 2012, by Correa to regulate asylum procedures in the country, does not protect asylum seekers’ due process rights. Ecuador has the largest number of registered refugees in the region – 56,000 at the end of 2012. The majority are Colombians escaping armed conflict.
“The government of Ecuador is entitled to regulate who may stay in the country, but asylum seekers should have their claims fairly examined,” said José Miguel Vivanco, Americas director. “Correa’s decree does just the opposite, making it increasingly difficult to seek asylum.”
The decree includes several problematic provisions. Specifically, it contains a narrow definition of who may be considered a refugee. The decree also establishes a procedure to determine which asylum claims should be considered “manifestly unfounded” that flouts United Nations refugee agency guidelines.
The decree also imposes a 15-day limit for registering an asylum claim after a person enters Ecuador, which should be applied flexibly. It also allows officials overly broad authority to reject an asylum application before reviewing it on the grounds that an applicant may have committed crimes, and overly broad powers to revoke refugee status.
These provisions violate international standards in the 1951 Convention Relating to the Status of Refugees and its 1967 Protocol, in the 1981 Cartagena Declaration on Refugees, and guidelines on basic safeguards adopted by the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees.
President Correa should revoke these problematic provisions. He should push for adoption of comprehensive legislation that fully respects the right to seek and be granted asylum, as included in the American Convention on Human Rights and the Universal Declaration of Human Rights.