Bishops of Ecuador ask for assistance for Colombian refugees

.- The Bishops Conference of Ecuador is calling on the country’s president, Lucio Gutierrez, to increase assistance for refugees who are fleeing to Ecuador to escape the violence in Colombia. Speaking to the Spanish news agency EFE, Sister Janette Ferreira, a representative of the Bishops Conference, said the various suggestions of the bishops have been presented in the form of a book entitled, “Towards a Shared Vision Among the Neighboring Countries of the Colombian Conflict,” elaborated by the Catholic Church and the UN High Commission for Refugees.

According to Sister Janette, the book is “a wake-up call to people, the government and the Church herself so that together we can search for solutions to the problems” which result from the refugee situation.

Statistics indicate that more than 300,000 Colombians are residing in Ecuador, 7,000 of whom are refugees.  In the last five years Ecuadorian authorities have received more than 27,000 requests for refugee status.

Sister Janette said the number of refugees and those applying for refugee status are low compared to the number of Colombian residents in Ecuador, many of whom are illegals.

“The most important thing is for the Colombians to gain legal status, and if we can help them gain legal status in Ecuador, they could be contribute to the development and general production of the country,” she explained.

Sister Janette also called on Ecuadorians to not fall into certain prejudices against the Colombians, who are often unjustly associated with violence.  “This is a mentality we should change,” she said.

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