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Refugee Livelihoods in Urban Areas: Identifying Program Opportunities Case Study Ecuador

Refugee Livelihoods in Urban Areas: Identifying Program Opportunities Case Study Ecuador

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Refugees in urban areas face a specific set of livelihoods problems, and in recent years many aid agencies have begun to try to address these problems by supporting refugees through vocational training, microcredit and other services. So far, however, there has been little evidence about which humanitarian programs work, and where opportunities for programming interventions lie. This study, funded by the US State Department’s Bureau of Population, Refugees and Migration, addresses this knowledge gap. Through case studies in Cairo, Tel Aviv and Quito, we analyzed the urban livelihoods context for refugees and identified programming opportunities and promising program initiatives. In each city, we sought to generate new ideas from related fields of inquiry, such as low-income urban development and youth employment,that could be adapted for refugees in countries of first asylum.

Our three case studies represent contrasting refugee policy contexts and livelihoods experience, and offer lessons for other host settings. Each case study begins with a review of existing livelihood programs in the country. This includes a mapping of commercial, humanitarian and governmental organizations that provide programming, advocacy or other resources that support the livelihoods of refugees, migrants and low-income citizens. We then interviewed asylum seekers and key informants to deepen our understanding of the livelihoods context in each country. Our main program recommendations, based on all three cases, are included as a stand-alone document.
Refugees in urban areas face a specific set of livelihoods problems, and in recent years many aid agencies have begun to try to address these problems by supporting refugees through vocational training, microcredit and other services. So far, however, there has been little evidence about which humanitarian programs work, and where opportunities for programming interventions lie. This study, funded by the US State Department’s Bureau of Population, Refugees and Migration, addresses this knowledge gap. Through case studies in Cairo, Tel Aviv and Quito, we analyzed the urban livelihoods context for refugees and identified programming opportunities and promising program initiatives. In each city, we sought to generate new ideas from related fields of inquiry, such as low-income urban development and youth employment,that could be adapted for refugees in countries of first asylum.

Our three case studies represent contrasting refugee policy contexts and livelihoods experience, and offer lessons for other host settings. Each case study begins with a review of existing livelihood programs in the country. This includes a mapping of commercial, humanitarian and governmental organizations that provide programming, advocacy or other resources that support the livelihoods of refugees, migrants and low-income citizens. We then interviewed asylum seekers and key informants to deepen our understanding of the livelihoods context in each country. Our main program recommendations, based on all three cases, are included as a stand-alone document.

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Categories:Types, Research
Published by: Feinstein International Center on Feb 14, 2013
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The few respondents who arrived with some

financial capital used it to secure housing during

the first months. Some stayed at a hostel un-

til funds were depleted or until they found an

apartment to rent. Those that arrived without

funds relied on friends and/or family in Ecuador

or, if in Quito, went directly to refugee assisting

organizations. Several slept on the streets during

their first days in Quito or found temporary shel-

ter at one of the city’s homeless shelters, such

as Santa Rita.

Finding an apartment to rent is difficult due to

discrimination. Ecuadorian landlords sometimes

Map 1 Refugees in Ecuador originate from Colombia, Cuba, Peru
and numerous other countries. However, the majority are of Colombi-
an descent.

18 | Feinstein International Center

refuse to rent to Colombians, regardless of their

financial resources. Several respondents men-

tioned some experience of housing discrimina-

tion:

It took time to fnd an apartment or even

a room to rent because, when they hear

my [Colombian] accent, Ecuadorians say,

“There are no more rooms for rent!” Or they

simply slam the door in my face!

And another said:

We had great diffculty fnding a place to

live. They ask us [Colombians] for a larger

down payment than Ecuadorians. Recently

we were looking for a place to live nearby.

We went to a house and they asked me if I

was Colombian. I said yes and they imme-

diately refused us. We could really beneft

from a housing program.

Another obstacle is the initial deposit that land-

lords require, which amounts to 1-2 months rent.

Respondents lacking financial resources try to

locate living spaces that do not require a de-

posit and are inexpensive ($50-$120 per month),

and end up in places that lack basic facilities

such as running water.

Due to the difficulties of finding housing and

covering rent and initial deposits, both Colom-

A neighborhood in Guayaquil, home to a few of the study’s respondents. Photo by Sandra ten Zijthoff

Refugee Livelihoods in Urban Areas: Identifying Program Opportunities / Case Study Ecuador | 19

bians and refugees of other nationalities live in

neighborhoods with low-cost housing, and often

share living spaces to minimize costs. Families

that arrive together may share a house, with one

bedroom assigned to a family of five or more.

Individuals may share a $100 suite among four.

The Ecuadorian government offers a “bono de

la vivienda” [housing subsidy] to families with

scarce resources who would like to buy or build

a house. While the subsidy is intended for fami-

lies in highly vulnerable circumstances, refugees

are not considered as possible beneficiaries.[33]

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