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Monday, September 21, 2009

Ecuador receives increasing number of Colombian refugees

QUITO, Sept. 10 (Xinhua) -- The Ecuadorian government registered about 3,000 new Colombian refugees displaced by internal violence in the past one and a half months, the Ecuadorian Foreign Ministry said Thursday.

From July 20 to Sept. 4, in the second stage of the "extended record" program, Ecuador issued 2,962 refugee visas in Sucumbios province which borders Colombia, the ministry said.

This extended record is part of a humanitarian initiative, through which the government expects to give refugee visas to Colombian citizens who went to the northern border of the country seeking international protection from the internal armed conflict in Colombia, the Ministry said.

During the second stage, which will continue in Nueva Loja province from Sept. 14, the ministry expects to register 23,000 people in the province till October.

The following stage will include another three provinces, namely Orellana, Carchi and Imbabura.

Ecuador expects to give refuge to some 50,000 Colombian citizens in one year.

During the first stage, from March 23 to July 4, the Ecuadorian authorities registered 10,603 people in Esmeraldas province, more than double what they had expected.

According to the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR), Ecuador hosted 135,000 refugees in 2008 and it is the country with the largest number of refugees in the continent.

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