After 10 months, my experience here in Lago Agrio is coming to an end. Since September, I have been working with Asylum Access Ecuador, but now only a week remains.
A Success Story: A Woman Rebuilds Her Life
I have been privileged enough to be able work here with displaced persons to assist them through the Refugee Status Determination process and to empower them in the exercise of their rights. This week, we received some great news at the office about a case I had been working with since December. A woman was forced to flee Colombia after she witnessed the forced recruitment of four of her nephews by the FARC, a revolutionary guerrilla group, but she was denied refugee status in Ecuador. After I wrote an appeal for her case, she was given another interview, which was already good news since most of our appeals come back rejected. Earlier this week, she informed me that they had granted her refugee status. This woman will now be able to find better and more stable work and not have to worry about being detained or deported if she decides to travel outside of Lago Agrio, helping her to start to rebuild her life in her new home.
Congressional Members Discuss Border Issues
Another interesting event in my last weeks here was the Andean Parliament. Three congressional members, one each from Ecuador, Colombia and Peru, came to talk about issues facing the border between Ecuador and Colombia, which is located only 15 kilometers from Lago Agrio. Among the issues discussed were what might happen to refugees in Ecuador if a peace deal is signed in Colombia, the problem of people who have two birth certificates (one from Ecuador and one from Colombia), which is a crime in both countries, and the need for more attention from both governments to the issue of human trafficking. The Andean Parliament is a relatively new body and it will be exciting to see what kind of positive change it can effect.
My time here at Asylum Access Ecuador in Lago Agrio has allowed me to grow both personally and professionally. I know that I will never forget the lessons I have learned here and I hope that I can put them to positive use in my continuing career in humanitarian work.