Ecuador is well known as a country of refuge for others. In fact, as of 2013, Ecuador hosted the largest refugee population in Latin America, with over 54,800 refugees recognized by the Ecuadorian government. (See the 2014 UNHCR Country Operations Profile-Ecuador.)
Though many refugees seek asylum in Ecuador, Ecuadorians also look to the United States for protection. Many Ecuadorians in the United States have not actually applied for asylum status, but the number of rural female Ecuadorians seeking refuge here is increasing.
Ecuador is a multiparty republic with a president who was elected during open, free elections. This creates an obstacle for Ecuadorians seeking asylum in the U.S., since every asylum applicant who was persecuted by a non-state actor must demonstrate that the government cannot or will not protect the applicant.
The most common claims from Ecuador are those of Ecuadorians fleeing gang violence and trafficking. There are also numerous claims of domestic abuse.
Although violence against women is against the law in Ecuador, it remains widespread there. Many women do not report the abuse because of social stigma or fear of retribution.
An increasing number of young women from rural areas in Ecuador have applied for asylum in the United States because they escaped from human traffickers back home. According to the U.S. State Department's 2012 Trafficking in Persons Report-Ecuador, most trafficking victims are women and children recruited from the central highland areas. Although the government tries to investigate these gangs, there were no convictions for trafficking in 2012.
Of the 329 people prosecuted for trafficking between 2007 and 2010, only ten were reportedly convicted. Tied to human trafficking is an increase in activity by drug cartels, which fuels violence in certain areas.
To win asylum, an applicant must prove that he or she has been persecuted or fears persecution on account of race, religion, nationality, political opinion, or membership in a particular social group. If the persecutor is not the government, the applicant must also convince the Immigration Judge or Asylum Officer that their government cannot or will not protect him or her. Since Ecuador is a democracy, judges and officers often look at Ecuadorians as people who do not need U.S. protection, especially since they have police and prosecutors at home.
Once you describe your persecution to the judge or officer, it is very important to explain why the police cannot or will not protect you. In many cases the Ecuadorian government is willing to protect citizens but, in practice, cannot do so. This is especially true in more rural areas where gangs traffic people and where drugs tend to operate more easily. In some instances the local police are corrupt; in others, the police are afraid of the gangs.
It is a good idea to find official reports that contain statistics that show the discrepancy between arrests and convictions and submit copies of these along with your asylum claim. There are many human rights organizations that compile reports and statistics that you should submit with your asylum application.