Assistant Secretary of State for Population, Refugees, and Migration Eric P. Schwartz will travel to Ecuador and Colombia today through March 4, 2011.
For decades, illegal armed groups have forced hundreds of thousands of Colombian civilians to flee from their homes to more peaceful parts of Colombia and to neighboring countries. The situation has been further aggravated by drug trafficking. The Government of Colombia has made strides over the past several years in re-establishing security and state presence in many areas of Colombia, and violence has decreased significantly.
Displacement continues, however, due to continued clashes between Colombian security forces and illegal armed groups, and among illegal groups for control of territory.
In Ecuador, Assistant Secretary Schwartz will meet with Ecuadorian government officials to express the United States’ solidarity with the government and people of Ecuador as they host more than 180,000 thousand refugees from Colombia, and to learn about the impact of the refugees on the host communities.
He will also meet with officials from the international organizations and NGOs that are providing support to the Colombian refugee population in Ecuador, and whose projects are funded by the Department of State. Assistant Secretary Schwartz will travel to Ecuador’s northern border to talk with Colombian refugees there about their current humanitarian needs, and to observe Department-funded assistance activities.
In Colombia, Assistant Secretary Schwartz will discuss humanitarian issues with government officials, and with officials of the international and non-governmental organizations whose Department of State-funded projects assist internally displaced Colombians. He will also visit Tumaco, the capital of Nariño Department, which has been a destination for many internally displaced persons (IDPs) seeking refuge from violence in rural areas.
In Tumaco, Assistant Secretary Schwartz will meet with IDPs, particularly Afro-Colombians; monitor the distribution of humanitarian assistance; and also talk with government officials responsible for response to displacement.