Statement by Andrea Lari, Senior Advocate:
"The recent assassination of two Ecuadorian community leaders who have been helping Colombian refugees along the border between Ecuador and Colombia represents another indication that violence and terror are no longer contained within Colombian territory but are generating increasing instability well beyond its borders.
"Miguel Lapo and Miguel Pinzón were murdered by unknown perpetrators on September 28th and September 29th. Mr. Pinzón was assassinated in the nearby town of San Martín. Mr. Lapo was killed in Barranca Bermeja, a town in Ecuador located just across the river from Colombia. This very community was visited by Representative Jim McGovern of Massachusetts in November of 2008.
"Refugees International visited the northwestern Ecuadorian province of Esmeralda in June of this year and received several reports of the presence of newly reorganized Colombian paramilitary groups operating in the town of San Lorenzo, close to the border. A number of leaflets threatening "social cleansing" of marginalized groups like drug addicts, thieves and prostitutes had been delivered to communities living in San Lorenzo. The same type of leaflets have been circulating inside Colombia in areas where newly organized paramilitary groups are active in criminal activities and trafficking of narcotics, while gradually exercising social control over communities.
"Refugees International calls for a thorough investigation by the Ecuadorian authorities into the murder of these leaders, while also calling on the U.S. government and countries neighboring Colombia to pursue a multilateral regional effort to address the humanitarian and protection dimensions of the Colombian refugee crisis. A starting point should be providing resources for expanding the presence of international humanitarian actors in border areas, given the increasing number of Colombian refugees fleeing their country. They should also assure support for basic services and infrastructure expansion which would benefit host communities and refugees alike."
Refugees International advocates for lifesaving assistance and protection for displaced people and promotes solutions to displacement crises.
Vanessa Parra; +1-202-904-0319