HIAS in Ecuador

Founded: 2003
Staff Size: 281
Country Director: Sabrina Lustgarten
Office Locations: Cuenca, Esmeraldas, Guayaquil, Huaquillas, Ibarra, Lago Agrio, Machala, Quito, San Lorenzo, Santo Domingo, Tulcan 



Each year, thousands of refugees from Colombia, Venezuela, and other countries flee to Ecuador escaping from violence. Ecuador hosts one of the largest refugee population in Latin America, with approximately 67,000 refugees and more than 230,000 asylum seekers. Since 2018, Ecuador has seen a significant influx of refugees and migrants from Venezuela arriving in the country, with an average of nearly 80,000 entries per month– approximately 18% stay in the country while the remaining 82% continue their journey to Peru or other countries. Today HIAS is supporting approximately 3,000 families, or about 8,000 individuals, per month.



HIAS’ direct clients include those with significant legal and protection needs, single-parent heads of households, survivors of sexual and gender-based violence (SGBV), those with chronic illnesses and disabilities, older people, youth separated from their families, and LGBTQ communities. On average, HIAS Ecuador assists more than 40,000 refugees and asylum seekers per year and reaches approximately 5,500 Ecuadorians, including members of the host community and public officials. 



HIAS’ strategy in Ecuador focuses on a case management approach that provides refugee families with personalized and comprehensive assistance that meets their particular needs. Working hand-in-hand with governmental institutions, partner agencies and the private sector, and carrying out community-based interventions, HIAS promotes local integration and the development of sustainable livelihoods.
Psychosocial Services
Most refugees arrive in Ecuador with a history of exposure to violence and threats. A large percentage of Colombian refugees are women who were forced to flee when their husbands were killed or recruited into militias and Venezuelan refugees struggle with the loss of their homes, livelihoods, and identity, as well as possible separation from family and other types of social support. In many cases, refugees experience serious forms of gender-based violence (GBV) and torture in their countries of origin or while they flee. Once in Ecuador, the uncertainty of legal status, difficulty in meeting basic needs, xenophobia and discrimination, and on-going risks of GBV lead to increased anxiety and depression. HIAS’ psychosocial support focuses on promoting well-being through the development of community protection networks–with an emphasis on GBV prevention and response–and integration activities. HIAS provides individual psychosocial assistance for those cases which require additional support to overcome the effects of forced displacement.
Legal Services
Ecuador’s policies are widely recognized for exceeding international refugee law standards; however, refugees continue to face workplace exploitation, xenophobia and serious challenges securing identity documents, work permits and official refugee status. They are in significant need of information, advice and education on their rights, legal procedures and available social services. HIAS works in close collaboration with the government, the UN refugee agency (UNHCR), legal assistance providers and others to empower, educate and support refugees as they seek to access rights, secure protection and find durable solutions. HIAS focuses on serving the most vulnerable refugees who receive specially-tailored information and guidance, whether relating to refugee status determination (RSD) and local integration, resettlement, or alternative durable solutions.
Livelihood Services
HIAS has strengthened its community-based interventions to provide comprehensive support to vulnerable refugees and promote their well-being, so they can focus on developing sustainable livelihoods. Using the Graduation Model Approach (GMA), HIAS has supported more than 2,700 vulnerable refugee families; the GMA focuses on refugee families who live in extreme poverty, but who have the potential to generate income. Families are guided step-by-step through a personalized path to a help them move out of extreme poverty and "graduate." So far more than 660 families have “graduated” as they achieved economic and social self-reliance. HIAS, UNHCR, and the Ministry of Economic and Social Inclusion are working together on a pilot project that combines the best practices of the GMA and a social protection program so vulnerable Ecuadorians and refugees can access a comprehensive support program that promotes self-reliance.
HIAS also works with the private sector to increase companies’ willingness to hire refugees and work with them as partners throughout their supply chains. By implementing corporate social responsibility initiatives and aligning efforts to achieve sustainable development goals, HIAS raises awareness within the private sector of the situation of refugees and migrants.

Emergency Response
HIAS implements a comprehensive response to meet the urgent needs of vulnerable Venezuelans arriving in Ecuador. HIAS provides recently arrived families with emergency cash-based interventions to help them meet their food, shelter, and other urgent needs, and provides legal and social orientation so they can access services and rights. Moreover, HIAS implements community-based protection initiatives with a focus on vulnerable groups, ensuring they can access information and support, and live safely and free from discrimination.

HIAS’s services are free. If someone tries to charge you for services claiming they represent HIAS, please report it at our confidential email address: ethics@hias.org. HIAS has a zero-tolerance policy on fraud and corruption. 

For any other inquiries please email us at info@hias.org.