A “Growing Concern”: The Public’s Xenophobia Toward and Discrimination Against Venezuelan Migrants in Ecuador

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Introduction

Since 2015, over 4.7 million Venezuelans have left their country and become part of the largest exodus in the history of Latin America (UNHCR, 2020a, p. 32), as well as the second-largest displacement of people in the world (Miller & Panayotatos, 2019, p. 4). Many of these individuals, facing violations of fundamental human rights, have left and continue to leave Venezuela as a result of the political turmoil, socio-economic instability, and ongoing humanitarian crisis in the country (International Organization for Migration (IOM), 2020, para. 1). The causes of the situation in Venezuela are multiple and controversial. Sources point to the nature of the regime, as well as to serious concerns about the involvement of the United States in the country (Venezuelan & Ausman, 2019). In the midst of economic and institutional collapse, there exists an extreme shortage of basic necessities such as food and medicine, while issues like widespread violence produce an atmosphere of fear and desperation (Miller & Panayotatos, 2019, p. 8). 

Ecuador, one of the smallest countries in South America, is also the nation that has received the third largest number of Venezuelans (World Bank, 2020a, p. 20).[1] Since 2015, around 1.15 million Venezuelans have entered Ecuador and nearly 400,000 have settled there (World Bank, 2020b, p. 1). Venezuelans in this host country face rampant xenophobia and discrimination by the Ecuadorian public.[2] According to Ecuadorian migration experts and human rights NGOs, the public’s xenophobia toward Venezuelans is a “growing concern” (Teff, 2019, p. 3). Indeed, as the presence of Venezuelans has increased over the past five years, xenophobic sentiment and behavior has become more noticeable (Ramirez et al., 2019, p. 22). A study conducted by the Centro Estrategico Latinoamericano de Geopolitica (Latin American Strategic Center of Geopolitics) revealed that Ecuadorians consider Venezuelan migration one of the main issues the nation must address (Ramirez et al., 2019, p. 22). Among Ecuadorians, there exists a “widespread desire” for Venezuelans to leave the nation “as soon as possible” (OXFAM, 2019, p. 7). 98 percent of Venezuelan migrants have experienced discrimination on the basis of their national identity (International Organization for Migration (IOM) qtd. as cited in Hungría, 2020, para. 1). Despite the magnitude of the problem, there is a gap in the literature on attitudes toward migrants in Ecuador, and even less focused specifically on the topic of xenophobia against Venezuelans in the country (Dressel, 2020, p. 518). 

This paper seeks to describe how the public’s xenophobia toward and discrimination against Venezuelans has played out in Ecuador. In other words, what form has this xenophobia taken? Then, it will consider and analyze the factors that have contributed to such xenophobia. Finally, it will demonstrate how nationals’ prejudiced acts reflect violations of the human rights of Venezuelans, as well as establish why the Ecuadorian State bears responsibility for protecting against such violations. In the conclusion, the paper will describe some of the most important ways that the State can address the issue of xenophobia at hand. Lastly, in a separate, supplementary section, the paper sets forth an accessible, bullet-point outline of these, along with some other critical ways, that the State can act. Ultimately, the purpose of this paper is to inform its readers—to give them an understanding of the xenophobia, its causal factors, its implication for migrants’ rights, why the State has a responsibility to act, and how the State can act. It is the hope that this paper will provide an impetus for readers to go further—for the public to ask more questions, for scholars to engage in more research on the topic, for civil society actors to get more involved and engage the State, for lawyers to craft specific legal arguments that trigger direct government responsibility—and begin to promote change.

Status of Venezuelans in Ecuador

The majority of Venezuelans in Ecuador do not have a regular immigration status (World Bank, 2020a, p. 23). Additionally, only a very small percentage are considered refugees/asylum seekers by the State. In fact, in 2019, less than 1.4 percent of Venezuelans in Ecuador had refugee or asylum seeker status (World Bank, 2020a, p. 52). Venezuelans are leaving their country for a blend of factors (Selee and Bolter, 2020). Although the 1951 Refugee Convention definition is applicable for certain profiles of those at risk (Spindler, et al., 2019, para. 5), it does not as clearly apply to others who are fleeing food scarcity and a general lack of resources (Selee and Bolter, 2020, p. 27). Even so, many Venezuelans are in need of international refugee protection, based on the broader criteria of the 1984 Cartagena Declaration adopted in Latin America (Spindler, et al., 2019, para. 5). However, Ecuador, much like other countries in the region, has avoided using this broader definition to grant refugee or asylum seeker status (Selee and Bolter, 2020). This decision results from the fact that Ecuador’s asylum system is already overwhelmed by the large increase in applications coming from Venezuelans, as well as a concern about encouraging additional migration to the country (Selee and Bolter, 2020, p. 26-27).

Throughout the text, I will use the term “migrants” to refer to Venezuelans. In this paper, the word “migrant” refers to any person who “moves away from his or her place of usual residence” for any reason (IOM, 2019, para. 1). In other words, it can include refugees, asylum seekers, and any other “category” of people (IOM, 2019, para. 1). The reason I am not drawing a major distinction between refugees and all other Venezuelans throughout the paper is because the number of Venezuelans with refugee status is so small, which means that sources often do not distinguish them specifically from other “categories” of Venezuelans in terms of data on discrimination or differences in the public’s xenophobic sentiment.

Defining Xenophobia and Discrimination

The term “xenophobia” comes from the Greek words “xenos,” meaning “foreigner,” and “phobos,” meaning “fear” (United Nations Office of the High Commissioner for Human Rights (OHCHR), 2013, p. 1). Thus, in its most literal form, xenophobia can be defined as a “fear” or dislike of “foreigners.” Manifestations of xenophobia include actions that reject or exclude individuals, based on the perception that they are “outsiders or foreigners to the community” (Miller, 2018, p. 2). These manifestations can include acts of direct discrimination, hostility or violence and incitement to hatred (Office of the High Commissioner for Human Rights, 2013, p. 1). In the context of this paper, the “foreigners” are Venezuelans.

Moreover, although this paper will offer an understanding generally of the nature and causes of the Ecuadorian public’s xenophobia, I will draw most heavily from two “exemplar” categories of xenophobic acts to illustrate my points.These categories include acts of discrimination in (1) housing and (2) employment. I have selected these two after an extensive analysis of NGO field studies in Ecuador and interviews with multiple migration experts who highlighted these sectors as two of the most frequently and significantly affected by the public’s xenophobia.

Manifestations of the Ecuadorian Public’s Xenophobia and Discrimination 

Incident of January 2019: Femicide of Diana Ramirez Reyes and Subsequent Violence

One of the most extreme and violent displays of the Ecuadorian public’s xenophobia took place in January of 2019 after the femicide of a pregnant Ecuadorian woman, Diana Ramirez Reyes, by a Venezuelan man in Ibarra[3] (Teff, 2019, p. 19). For 45 minutes, the man, Reyes’ partner, threatened and held her hostage on the street (Ramirez et al., 2019, p. 23). Ultimately, he stabbed and killed Reyes, which observers filmed and posted online (Ramirez et al., 2019, p. 23). On January 19, the night of the incident, as well as the following evening, many Ecuadorian citizens in Ibarra and in other cities (World Bank, 2020a, p. 135) went out and launched indiscriminate attacks against any Venezuelans they found as a form of revenge for Reyes’ murder (Teff, 2019, p. 19). The groups of Ecuadorians in Ibarra went to places where Venezuelans lived such as hostels and parks to expel the migrants from their homes by throwing stones and burning their belongings (World Bank, 2020a, p. 135; Ramirez et al., 2019, p. 23). Many Ecuadorians carrying out these attacks around Ibarra were filmed yelling “Get out Venezuelans, get out!” (Rojas, 2019, para. 2), as well as insulting and hitting migrants that were walking on the streets (Ramirez et al., 2019, p.  23). 

Given the viral dissemination of the video of the killing online, even those not directly involved in the violence against migrants expressed verbal outrage over the murder committed by a “foreigner” (Daniels, 2019, no pages; Donoso, 2020, p. 13). Many called for more immigration control, the closing of borders, and the deportation of “illegals” (Comite Permanente por la Defensa de los Derechos Humanos (CDH), 2020, para. 9). 

Public Spaces

According to a 2020 World Bank report on Venezuelan migration in Ecuador, some of the most common sites of daily xenophobic harm are public spaces such as streets, parks, and markets (2020a, p. 130). On average, 65 percent of Venezuelan men and women have reported feeling discrimination while out on the streets (World Bank, 2020a, p. 129). NGOs also report that there is a high level of verbal violence towards migrants, including insults, threats, and shows of contempt (Murfet and Baron, 2020, p. 18). Many report hearing complaints about Venezuelans and their impact on unemployment or crime while walking around public spaces in Quito and other cities (Chacon and Munoz-Pogossian, 2019, para. 2). From the perspective of Venezuelans themselves, one woman explains that she has had to get off public buses while out with her daughter to keep the child from hearing offensive remarks about their nationality (Heredia, 2019, para. 1). Another woman shares that her daughters are not able to play in a park near their home in Quito because whenever they do, other children hit them or yell, “Get out of here Venezuelan[s], get out!” (World Bank, 2020a, p. 129). 

Xenophobia and Discrimination Within Specific Sectors

The Ecuadorian public’s xenophobia toward and discrimination against Venezuelans is also visible within specific sectors of society. Within the health sector, for example, there is sometimes discrimination against Venezuelan patients (IOM qtd. as cited in Teff, 2019, p. 21). Under Ecuadorian law, health care is free and accessible to all without regard to nationality or legal status (Teff, 2019, p. 21). However, there have been instances where Venezuelans have gone to a health center in which personnel either refuse to treat them or treat them with hostility because of where they are from (Personal Interview of Professor at University in Ecuador 1; Murfet and Baron, 2020, p. 21). Similarly, anti-migrant behavior has also been observed in the education sector. Venezuelan children have reported being verbally and physically bullied by their Ecuadorian peers simply for being Venezuelan (World Bank, 2020a, p. 130). Teachers and school administrators have also been found to engage in discriminatory or offensive behavior (Teff, 2019, p. 21). In one case reported to a school district in Quito, a teacher told her student on the first day of class that there were “too many Venezuelans” in Ecuador (Rosero and Mina, 2019, para. 9). Gabriela Malo, a migration specialist, also notes that teachers sometimes call students by their nationality instead of their name, which encourages xenophobic behavior from other children (Rosero and Mina, 2019, para. 10). 

Aside from health and education, two sectors in which Venezuelans encounter the most xenophobia and discrimination are housing and employment. 

Housing:

The two main issues are (1) access to housing and (2) evictions. To begin with the first, it is often “difficult” for Venezuelans to find a place to rent because of their nationality (Personal Interview of Advocacy Expert at Ecuadorian NGO; Personal Interview of Professor 1; Murfet and Baron, 2020, p. 26). A survey conducted by the UNHCR and the Ecuadorian Ministry of Economic and Social Inclusion (MIES) revealed that 44 percent of 8, 565 Venezuelans interviewed had a difficult time finding a place to live (UNHCR & MIES, 2019, p. 15). [4] Of this group, 55.7 percent stated that the main reason they could not find housing was due to “rejection for being foreigners” (UNHCR & MIES, 2019, p. 15). Some housing announcements put up by Ecuadorian landlords in neighborhoods around the country particularly foreground this rejection (Personal Interview of Advocacy Expert at Ecuadorian NGO).[5] To cite one example, an announcement put up for an apartment available for rent in Ibarra stated that “No Venezuelans” would be considered (Personal Interview of Advocacy Expert at Ecuadorian NGO).  

Moreover, a major issue for Venezuelans during the COVID-19 pandemic has been evictions (Murfet and Baron, 2020, p. 8). Many have been evicted forcefully from their homes, often as a result of not being able to pay rent (Murfet and Baron, 2020, p. 26). Although many Ecuadorian families are also unable to pay rent, forced evictions have been less common among their population (Personal Interview of Advocacy Expert at Ecuadorian NGO; Personal Interview of Professor 1). [6] According to migration experts, the evictions of Venezuelan tenants are often driven by xenophobic attitudes and are a “clear sign” of discrimination against the migrants (CEJP and MS, “La migración en la región: realidades y desafíos” Webinar, 33:52; Personal Interview of Advocacy Expert at Ecuadorian NGO; Personal Interview of Professor 1).[7]

Employment:

Venezuelans have also frequently reported encountering xenophobia and discrimination from the Ecuadorian public within the employment sector. In fact, over half of Venezuelan migrants say they have experienced discrimination from their bosses or from co-workers (World Bank, 2020a, p. 31). In some cases, migrants have been turned away by potential employers because of their nationality (Murfet and Baron, 2020, p. 15).[8] When they do find work, Venezuelans are often exploited (Miller & Panayotatos, 2019, p. 21). Many work without contracts: 92 percent of those with a job do not have a formal contract (Elias et al., 2020, p. 3). Employers often pay the migrants far less than they do Ecuadorian employees (Miller & Panayotatos, 2019, p. 21). Indeed, Venezuelan migrants receive a wage that is 42 percent lower than that of Ecuadorian nationals (World Bank, 2020b, p. 2). In some cases, Venezuelans are not paid at all (Miller & Panayotatos, 2019, p. 21). Several report having to work on a “trial basis” for days or weeks, only to receive no compensation (Teff, 2019, p. 22). Additionally, Venezuelan migrants are often required to work more hours than Ecuadorian employees, with the former working five hours more per week than the latter (World Bank, 2020b, p. 2). 

Another issue is that 69 percent of Venezuelan migrants work in informal commerce, often as street vendors, which exposes them to confrontations with Ecuadorian nationals (IOM qtd. as cited in Ramirez et al., 2019, p. 19). It is common to see Venezuelans in the streets, parks, and markets selling fast food, home-made sweets, juices, and arepas(Ramirez et al., 2019, p. 20). There have been some reports of altercations with Ecuadorian vendors such as in the case of one woman who explained, “There is a lot of xenophobia against us. When we are selling, Ecuadorians come and shout at us and tell us not to sell there. They say we are taking their place” (Teff, 2019, p. 19). 

Contributing Factors to the Ecuadorian Public’s Xenophobia and Discrimination

There exist a series of potential causes of and contributing factors to the Ecuadorian public’s xenophobia toward and discrimination against Venezuelan migrants. Though I will seek to explain the causes in general, my analysis will draw most heavily from examples of discrimination in the housing and employment sectors.

To begin, an important characteristic of the intolerance towards Venezuelans is that there is a slight regional difference involved. Indeed, although xenophobia and discrimination are widespread, such sentiments and behavior are “more noticeable” in the sierra region[9] than on the coast[10] because of regional differences in culture (Personal Interview of Professor 1; Personal Interview of Professor at University in Ecuador 2). The sierra and the coast, the two most populated regions in the country, have developed distinct social values and customs because of their diverse geographic histories (Pineo, 2007, p. 11) More specifically, due to their differing geographic and climatologic features, the two zones developed distinct market orientations (Pineo, 2007, p. 10). The sierra’s fertile and temperate valleys made it ideal for agriculture and food production, which led to the development of a market that was mainly for local consumption (Pineo, 2007, p. 6-10). On the other hand, the coast’s hot, wet, and tropical features were not ideal for food production, which meant that it was thinly populated during the colonial and early national periods (Pineo, 2007, p. 6-10). However, in the late nineteenth century, the population in the coast grew quickly as the production and exportation of cacao—which grows well in tropical climates— became popular (Pineo, 2007, p. 6-10). As a result, the coast developed a market focused primarily on international production (Pineo, 2007, p. 10). These differences in market orientation meant that people in the sierra historically had less contact with “outsiders” than people living in the coast had. Pineo suggests that this difference contributed to the development of a more socially reserved culture in the sierra and a more cosmopolitan, liberal, and extroverted one in the coast (Pineo, 2007, p. 11). Many scholars also argue that Venezuelan culture tends to be extroverted in nature, much like that of Ecuadorians in the coast, though there is a lack of literature explaining why this is the case in the Venezuelan context (Personal Interview of Professor 1; Personal Interview of Professor 2; León et al., 2009, p. 132). In sum, as a result of these differences, people in the sierra are more likely to feel a stronger cultural clash with Venezuelans than those on the coast feel (Personal Interview of Professor 1). 

Yet, as emphasized previously, anti-Venezuelan sentiment is present throughout Ecuador, and another primary contributing factor is the problem of unemployment and competition for jobs. A significant drop in oil prices since 2014 led Ecuador into an economic crisis that has been exacerbated by the COVID-19 pandemic (World Bank, 2020a, p. 26). In consequence, rates of unemployment are at their highest level for ten years (World Bank, 2020a, p. 26). Many Ecuadorians associate these high levels of unemployment with Venezuelan migration, perhaps due in part to the fact that the Venezuelan exodus coincided with the economic crisis in Ecuador and subsequent labor struggles (OXFAM, 2019, p. 8; World Bank, 2020a, p. 26). For example, Roberto, a 38-year-old Ecuadorian, claims, “We don’t have work because Venezuelans come here and get hired for lower wages, so we can’t find work” (Ramirez et al., 2019, p 22). This belief that Venezuelan migrants take jobs because they work for less is prevalent among Ecuadorians and fuels xenophobic sentiment (OXFAM, 2019, p. 8). Indeed, as Watts hypothesizes, xenophobia is activated when ideology is connected to a “sense of threat on a personal or group level,” such as the cultural perception that foreigners are “taking jobs” from natives (Watts qtd. as cited in Yakushko, 2009, p. 45). Those who aren’t able to find work like Roberto find an easy scapegoat in the migrants. On the other hand, some Ecuadorian employers may also be influenced by this perception, which can lead them to deny potential employees simply for being Venezuelan, such as in the case of one employer who turned away these migrants based on the argument that they “take jobs away” from Ecuadorians (Arcadia Foundation, 2020, no pages). In reality, however, the World Bank concluded that, on aggregate, the flow of Venezuelans coming into Ecuador has no causal link to the nation’s current labor issues (World Bank, 2020a, p. 31). This finding suggests that there is a need for education among the public on what is actually causing unemployment to rise, as well as government policies to address the labor issues at hand. 

The Ecuadorian public’s xenophobic sentiment and behavior are also largely driven by the perceived association between Venezuelan migrants and insecurity and crime. Over the last five years since the Venezuelan exodus began, the perception of insecurity among Ecuadorians has grown (World Bank, 2020a, p. 31). 67.9 percent believe that migration is behind this apparent increase in insecurity and delinquency (OXFAM, 2019, p. 12), with most considering that Venezuelans are particularly to blame (World Bank, 2020a, p. 135). Such beliefs contribute to a sense of fear and hostility towards migrants, which encourages discrimination. For example, a Professor of Migration and Human Rights at a university in Ecuador argues that a main reason why some Ecuadorians refuse to rent homes to Venezuelans is because of the criminality stereotype that makes people feel like they might become “victims of a crime” (Personal Interview of Professor 2). However, these public perceptions are not supported by statistical evidence. In fact, the arrival of Venezuelans in Ecuador correlates with a period of low violent crime (World Bank, 2020b, p. 2). Robbery and homicide rates are at their lowest for five years, including areas with large numbers of migrants (World Bank, 2020b, p. 2). So, what drives the perceived association between Venezuelans and delinquency? 

Migration experts contend that media and government rhetoric are largely to blame (Personal Interview of Professor 2; Personal Interview of Professor 1). Indeed, the news sensationalizes crimes that involve Venezuelans (Ramirez et al., 2019, p. 23; Personal Interview of Professor 2). Similarly, when a crime is committed by a Venezuelan, his or her nationality is often emphasized—both by journalistic outlets and State actors (Personal Interview of Professor 2; Personal Interview of Professor 1). For example, coverage of the femicide of Diana Reyes focused heavily on the country of origin of the offender (Donoso, 2020, p. 13). Headlines such as “Venezuelan Perpetrator of Femicide in Ibarra” (El Universo, 2019) contribute to the association of the “nationality of the perpetrator” with “criminality in general” (Pugh & Moya, 2020, p. 6). Similarly, on January 20, Ecuadorian President Lenin Moreno tweeted in response to the incident, “Ecuador is and will be a country of peace. I will not allow any antisocial elements to destroy that…I have authorized the immediate formation of brigades to control the legal situation of Venezuelan immigrants in the streets, in the workplace and on the border” (Brown, 2019, figure 2). [11]  Moreno’s tweet blames all Venezuelans for the crime of one individual. He also clearly juxtaposes the ideal of “peace” in Ecuador with these migrants, who he decries as “antisocial elements.” By calling for the need to “control” them in the streets and the workplace—places where xenophobia is already commonly observed—he alludes to the presence of “dangerous Venezuelans” everywhere and anywhere, as though they are committing crimes all around Ecuador. Such rhetoric could not have done much to assuage public sentiment, particularly in Ibarra where violence had already begun the night before and continued on the evening of Moreno’s tweet. Indeed, the president’s implication that allegedly “antisocial elements” threatening peace should be removed from Ecuador could also be observed in the rhetoric of the mobs in Ibarra as they shouted “get out Venezuelans” (Rojas, 2019, para. 2). 

But to return to the media, in addition to fueling an association between Venezuelans and crime, it has played a major part in increasing xenophobic sentiment through the promotion of other kinds of narratives (Said & Jara, 2020, p. 14). The news media plays a crucial role in disseminating information about foreigners to the Ecuadorian public (Ramirez et al., 2019, p. 23). Research has shown how public attitudes are shaped by this coverage (Dressel et al., 2020, p. 522). As a “natural” companion to the criminality narrative, Ecuadorian news often adopts a “securitizing discourse of protection” and draws “boundaries of belonging” between migrants and natives, between the “threat” and those who “need protection” (Pugh & Moya, 2020, p. 6), much like Moreno’s tweet. Such practices not only focus the conversation around migration on security, but also engage in a process of “othering” that reinforces the exclusion of Venezuelans from the community.

Another issue observed in news coverage is an emphasis on the large number of Venezuelans coming into Ecuador. Headlines such as “Association of Venezuelans in Ecuador Warns About the Increase in the Migration Flow” are often accompanied by images of hundreds of migrants waiting to enter the country (El Comercio, 2019). A study of news sources based in the Province of Los Rios also found that the use of the word “wave” was common in stories about Venezuelan migration (Bustamante, 2020, p. 2). This kind of rhetoric and imagery pushes forth the idea that immigration is out of control, which can encourage xenophobic statements such as the comment heard from a teacher in Quito who told her Venezuelan student that there are “too many Venezuelans in Ecuador” (Crawley et al, 2016, p. 15; Rosero and Mina, 2019, para. 9).  Such headlines also fail to acknowledge that most of those entering Ecuador move on to Peru (UNHCR, 2020b, no pages). Indeed, although the number is rising, only 26 percent of Venezuelans who arrive in Ecuador end up staying (UNHCR, 2020b, no pages). The emphasis on “massive flows” in the media is also concerning because of the existing belief held by over 80 percent of the Ecuadorian public that “migration leads to more migration” (OXFAM, 2019, p. 15). Consistently hearing about “waves” of Venezuelans can either create or serve to reinforce the widespread belief in the “pull effect” of migration (OXFAM, 2019, p. 15). According to the Professor of Migration and Human Rights, this has direct consequences on the treatment of Venezuelans. For example, some members of the Ecuadorian public refuse to rent apartments to Venezuelan migrants because of the “pull effect” stereotype that a room will be rented to one individual, but the next week, ten of his or her family members will join and cram into the space (Personal Interview of Professor 2). 

Another category of factors that contributes to the Ecuadorian public’s xenophobia toward and discrimination against Venezuelan migrants is the policies and practices of the government. This contribution works in various ways. In some cases, the policies or practices fuel anti-immigrant sentiment and behavior. In other cases, they may not directly fuel these feelings and actions, but have the effect of increasing Venezuelan migrants’ vulnerability to such xenophobia and discrimination.

To begin, the entry barriers imposed by Lenin Moreno’s government, particularly since 2019, play a significant role. For example, in response to Diana Reyes’ femicide, aside from issuing the aforementioned tweet, Moreno decided to impose stricter barriers for the entry of Venezuelans into the country. As of January 26, 2019, Venezuelans would have to present an apostilled criminal record and official ID cards to be allowed entry (Donoso, 2020, p. 13). Then in July of 2019, the government announced that it would require a “humanitarian visa” for entry starting August 26, which would cost $50 and demand a valid passport, as well as an apostilled criminal record from Venezuela (Selee and Bolter, 2020, p. 10). According to a human mobility specialist and professor at another university in Ecuador, these measures “single out” Venezuelan migrants and encourage prejudiced sentiments or discrimination from the public (Personal Interview of Professor 1). Indeed, such “securitization mechanisms” reinforce the perception that Venezuelans are potentially dangerous and that their entry should be limited.

Additionally, even though the intended purpose of these requirements is to control migration, the Migration Policy Institute finds that they have the opposite effect (Selee and Bolter, 2020, p. 10).  In fact, reports demonstrate that there has been an increase in irregular migration because many migrants cannot meet visa requirements (Selee and Bolter, 2020, p. 11). Many do not have passports because such documents are expensive and in short supply (Selee and Bolter, 2020, p. 11). Similarly, criminal records are nearly “impossible to obtain” given the human rights crisis in Venezuela (Tucker, 2019, para. 3). The fact that a larger number of Venezuelans are entering Ecuador without legal status means that more and more arrive in a state of greater vulnerability (Selee and Bolter, 2020, p. 10).[12]

As an increasing number of Venezuelans enter Ecuador this way, the issue of limited accessibility to acquiring a regular immigration status while already in the country has become all the more concerning. As mentioned previously, acquiring legal status by applying for asylum is not an option for most. Beyond this, the Ecuadorian government has failed to effectively implement regularization initiatives. Indeed, Ecuador resisted creating a special regularization program for Venezuelans until October 2019 when it began allowing migrants to apply for a two-year “Exceptional Visa for Humanitarian Reasons” (VERHU) (Selee and Bolter, 2020, p. 15). But this visa allowed only a small portion of Venezuelans to achieve regularization because only those who entered the country through regular channels before July 26, 2019 and who could afford the $50 fee qualified (Selee and Bolter, 2020, p. 18). Also, applicants had to present a Venezuelan passport no more than five years past its expiration date and an apostilled criminal record from Venezuela (Misión Scalabriniana, 2020, no pages). Thus, a majority of migrants in the country did not receive a VERHU visa either because they did not qualify or because, even if they did, the requirements were too difficult to meet (Personal Interview of Advocacy Expert at Ecuadorian NGO; Personal Interview of Professor 1).[13] Currently, less than 15 percent of Venezuelan migrants in Ecuador have a regular immigration status (World Bank, 2020a, p. 32).

Without legal status, migrants are especially vulnerable to xenophobic sentiments and discrimination from the public. Venezuelans who are undocumented are not legally permitted to work, so they have little choice but to labor without a formal contract. Consequentially, it becomes much easier for Ecuadorian employers to exploit them by requiring longer hours than Ecuadorian nationals for little to no pay (Personal Interview of Professor 1). Some Venezuelans have reported being told by employers that they “don’t deserve” more because they are “immigrants” (Quintero, 2018, p. 66). This in turn fuels the aforementioned stereotype that migrants take jobs away from natives because they accept lower wages. Importantly, once a migrant begins to work in Ecuador, domestic law and international treaty obligations require the State to give the migrant basic labor rights, regardless of legal status (van Teijlingen, 2011, p. 10). In other words, once Venezuelans begin working, they have access to Labor Inspectors and the courts to demand rights such as back pay, remuneration for unjust firings, social security, and other benefits (van Teijlingen, 2011, p. 10).[14] However, Venezuelans without regular status are often afraid of reporting workplace discrimination because employers threaten to get the migrants deported if they do so (Personal Interview of Professor 1). Also, a lack of regular status is a major reason why 69 percent of Venezuelans work in informal commerce, often as street vendors, which, as mentioned previously, can place them at a greater risk of verbal xenophobic violence from Ecuadorian vendors who feel directly threatened by the particularly visible presence of these new “competitors” (Ramirez et al., 2019, p. 19). 

Additionally, because of COVID-19, Venezuelans are unable to engage in this work, which has made it more difficult for them to pay for necessities like rent, and thus places them at a greater risk of being evicted by Ecuadorian landlords (Murfet and Baron, 2020, p. 26). An advocacy expert at an Ecuadorian NGO explains that some landlords have been less tolerant of Venezuelans’ inability to pay rent compared to the inability of Ecuadorian tenants to do so during the pandemic (Personal Interview of Advocacy Expert at Ecuadorian NGO). As Peter Fritzsche argues, xenophobia often “prevents empathy,” which may serve as one reason to explain this intolerance (Fritzsche, 1992, p. 77). In other words, Ecuadorians holding xenophobic sentiments may have a difficult time empathizing with those they consider “foreigners,” which means that they may be less likely to try to understand or sympathize with the feelings that Venezuelans exhibit when they are getting evicted (Fritzsche, 1992, p. 77). 

Moreover, an Ecuadorian University Professor of Migration and Human Rights explains that many Venezuelans’ lack of legal status has also made it easier for landlords to evict them (Personal Interview of Professor 2). Even though the government prohibited landlords from evicting tenants who failed to pay rent during quarantine and up to November 12, 2020 (El Universo, 2020, no pages), landlords continued disproportionately evicting Venezuelans because there was less of a concern about facing repercussions for violating the law (Personal Interview of Professor 2; Personal Interview of Professor 1, Personal Interview of Advocacy Expert at Ecuadorian NGO). In fact, some landlords have threatened to call the authorities to get Venezuelans deported if they make a report, which in effect deters migrants from seeking justice (Personal Interview of Professor 2). 

To sum up, there are evidently a series of potential causes for the public’s xenophobia toward and discrimination against Venezuelans in Ecuador. The aforementioned factors largely demonstrate what fuels xenophobic sentiment, which can in turn lead to manifestations of xenophobia such as discrimination. Regional differences in culture have contributed to a slightly stronger cultural clash between the migrants and Ecuadorians in the sierra. However, throughout the country, there is also a widespread problem with unemployment, which has led to the rise of scapegoating and stereotypes such as “Venezuelans are taking our jobs.” Additionally, the media, along with government actors and policies, have fueled the misperception that Venezuelans are associated with crime, which scholars argue creates a sense of fear and hostility among the public. Similarly, media and government rhetoric have promoted narratives of securitization, exclusion, and an uncontrollable influx of Venezuelans. Migration experts signal that all of these have likely encouraged discriminatory behaviors from the Ecuadorian public, such as refusing to rent apartments to Venezuelans or to hire them. Finally, the government’s decision to introduce high entry barriers and failure to implement regularization initiatives for migrants in the country means that most Venezuelans are undocumented. Without legal status, they are more vulnerable to the Ecuadorian public’s xenophobic sentiments and discriminatory behavior.

Implications for Human Rights and State Responsibility 

After closely studying the manifestations and potential causes of the Ecuadorian public’s xenophobia and discrimination, it is crucial to address the rights implications of the problem at hand. Indeed, the public’s actions are linked to violations of the human rights of Venezuelans. Incidents of physical and verbal xenophobic violence—such as occurred after the femicide in Ibarra in January of 2019—put the rights to life, liberty, security, and dignity of Venezuelan migrants at risk. Additionally, the discriminatory behaviors of the public present a serious threat to Venezuelans’ right to freedom from discrimination. All individuals have the right to enjoy and exercise, on an equal footing, fundamental freedoms, without suffering from discrimination based on any kind of characteristic, including nationality (United Nations, 1966, p. 3). However, the Ecuadorian public’s aforementioned acts of discrimination, such as a refusal to rent housing to Venezuelans or hire them, forceful evictions, and exploitative working conditions that entail little to no pay for excessive hours, all interfere with this right.

Also, such acts can ultimately affect other fundamental human rights. When Ecuadorian landlords refuse to rent apartments to Venezuelans, they are adversely affecting the migrants’ right to access housing. Similarly, the forceful evictions of Venezuelans from their homes directly violate their right to adequate housing, which is a fundamental component of the right to an adequate standard of living (United Nations, 2009, p. 3). When employers refuse to pay Venezuelans for their work, compensate them with meager wages below the legal minimum, or require them to toil for excessive hours, the host community members affect the State’s ability to guarantee basic labor rights—such as the right to favorable conditions of work (van Teijlingen, 2011, p. 10).[15] Finally, to return briefly to discrimination in the health sector, when personnel turn Venezuelans away on the basis of their nationality, there occurs a violation of the right to health and healthcare. Such actions can also impact migrants’ rights to human dignity and to life. In the context of education, belittling and prejudiced treatment from teachers or peers can interfere with a Venezuelan child’s ability to receive a quality education—thereby having the potential of constituting a violation of the right to education.

In short, Ecuadorian citizens’ xenophobic actions present serious threats to the rights of Venezuelans. In other words, the previous paragraphs largely highlight private violations of human rights, which raises the question, does the State have some form of responsibility for protecting against harms committed by non-State actors? It is indeed possible to contend that it does. A State’s obligations under international human rights law require that it respect, protect, and fulfill the human rights of people within its territory and/or jurisdiction (OHCHR, 2011, p. 3). These obligations include the duty to protect against human rights abuses by third parties (OHCHR, 2011, p. 3). In particular, this duty to protect is considered a “standard of conduct,” which means that States “may breach their international human rights law obligations… where they fail to take appropriate steps to prevent, investigate, punish and redress private actors’ abuse” (OHCHR, 2011, p. 3). 

The Inter-American Court of Human Rights (IACtHR), like a number of other international human rights supervisory bodies, has dealt with this question of State responsibility and violations of human rights by non-State actors (McCorquodale, 2002, p. 385). [16] In its landmark case, Velásquez Rodriguez v Honduras (1988)the IACtHR held that:

An illegal act which violates human rights and which is initially not directly imputable to a State (for example, because it is the act of a private person…) can lead to international responsibility of the State…because of the lack of due diligence to prevent the violation or to respond to it as required by the Convention (IACtHR, 1988, 172).

Although this case dealt with the responsibility of the State for failing to protect and investigate in the context of disappearances, the principle that the Court established is a general one. That is, when it is possible to demonstrate that a State failed to carry out “due diligence” to prevent and respond to violations by non-State actors, the State can be held responsible for such violations. According to the IACtHR in Velásquez Rodriguez v Honduras, preventing violations with “due diligence” includes:

all those means of a legal, political, administrative and cultural nature that promote the protection of human rights and ensure that any violations are considered and treated as illegal acts, which, as such, may lead to the punishment of those responsible and the obligation to indemnify the victims for damages (IACtHR, 1988, 175). 

Similarly, with respect to effectively responding to violations, a State must “carry out a serious investigation” (IACtHR, 1998, 174) because in situations where the “acts of private parties” that violate rights are not “seriously investigated,” the “State [can be held] responsible on the international plane” (IACtHR, 1998, 177). Applying these holdings to the case of Ecuador, it can be argued that the State has a positive obligation to carry out such “due diligence” to prevent and respond to the rights violations of Venezuelan migrants by members of the public. 

Conclusion

Although it is crucial for the State to look into all aforementioned rights violations, it is beyond the scope of this paper to outline recommendations for how the government can ensure that each of those rights is respected. However, it ispart of the purpose of this paper to conclude with some of the most important ways that the State can address and remedy the public’s xenophobia, which, as previously established, has resulted in private violations of Venezuelans’ rights. It is also of relevance to address the fact that other actors, such as those that form part of civil society, share the responsibility to combat xenophobia. Though it is outside of the realm of this text to address the particulars of how those other actors can get involved, it is nonetheless useful to highlight that they too should play a role.  

Moreover, it is important to note that, according to migration experts, the Ecuadorian State has paid little attention to the public’s xenophobia and discrimination (Personal Interview of Professor 1; Personal Interview of Advocacy Expert at Ecuadorian NGO). Indeed, there has been little to “no effort” to address the issue (Personal Interview of Professor 1). This in itself raises alarms for the question of State responsibility considering that a lack of “due diligence” can invoke a breach of international human rights law obligations. Thus, in the first instance, the State should make a much stronger commitment to tackling the problem. 

Ecuador must take steps to combat the public’s xenophobic sentiment, as well as directly address the issue of discrimination as it plays out in particular sectors of society. Because this paper has focused significantly on understanding the sources of the public’s xenophobic sentiment—which fuels various manifestations of xenophobia—and less on the particularly institutional factors that may allow for discriminatory effects to persist, this conclusion follows in that vein and focuses on ways to combat the sentiment. That is not to say that anti-discrimination policies are less important, only that they go beyond the scope of this paper and should be addressed in future work. Even so, this conclusion does offer preliminary suggestions for directly addressing the issue of discriminatory effects, which are also expanded upon in the supplementary section of the paper.

The State can begin by ensuring that its own rhetoric and actions do not fuel anti-migrant prejudice. All officials must avoid using xenophobic speech such as that observed in President Moreno’s tweet in response to the 2019 femicide in Ibarra. Instead, the government should send out clear messages condemning xenophobia and discrimination. Additionally, the government should lower the strict entry barriers imposed on Venezuelans, such as by removing certain requirements like the apostilled criminal record, which directly contributes to the misperception that these migrants are dangerous. Several scholars have argued that, when government officials make “xenophobic pronouncements,” they have the potential of “shap[ing] or reinforc[ing] public opinion and behavior” (Miller, 2018, p. 3). Thus, avoiding such pronouncements can go a long way in eventually dispelling, or at least not encouraging, prejudiced sentiments and actions.

Moreover, the Ecuadorian government should also take steps to educate the public to promote tolerance of Venezuelans (Achiume, 2014, p. 358). In partnership with civil society, the State could launch public educational campaigns that emphasize cultural similarities between the migrants and host community members—paying special attention to Ecuador’s regional cultural differences. These campaigns should also combat aforementioned stereotypes such as the idea that Venezuelans cause unemployment and take natives’ jobs or increase insecurity by frequently committing crimes. One way to go about this would be to highlight the previously mentioned findings of the World Bank, which directly disprove such misperceptions. Doing so can help to promote a “responsible, evidence-based public discourse” that shifts the conversation back to facts, which can have a direct impact on stemming acts of xenophobia, such as discrimination, by the public (OXFAM, 2019, p. 18). For instance, learning that, contrary to popular belief, most Venezuelans are not criminals, can encourage certain landlords to become more willing to rent housing to Venezuelan tenants. 

To continue, the government should also make attempts to encourage media reform. Given the vital role that the media plays in informing the public about migration and its perpetuation of concerning narratives, this is critical (Ramirez et al., 2019, p. 23). But, how can this be done? One suggestion is for the Ombudsman’s Office of Ecuador to promote the creation of self-regulatory mechanisms for the media. The Office could host a round table with news outlets to discuss current mechanisms in place for the prevention of prejudiced reporting, as well as to consider how such mechanisms can be improved or applied to coverage on Venezuelan migration (Giro Ciudadano Consultores, 2012). This kind of dialogue can eventually lead to reform. For example, reporters might become less likely to use headlines that encourage the idea that immigration is out of control or that emphasize the nationality of Venezuelan perpetrators, which tends to contribute to the association of the migrants with crime (Pugh & Moya, 2020). Eventually, this can have a direct effect on reducing discriminatory treatment that is fueled by such narratives.

As the government works on changing public attitudes over time, it should also take more immediate steps to protect Venezuelans from discrimination (Miller, 2018, p. 5). One of the first things the government should do is provide undocumented migrants with some form of legal status. Doing so can help reduce their vulnerability to the xenophobic sentiments and discriminatory behavior of the public. For instance, those with legal status might become more likely to report incidents of discrimination in the workplace given that threats from employers about getting them deported would be less frightening. Considering this fact, employers themselves might feel deterred from engaging in such blatant forms of discrimination. 

Additionally, the government must directly and explicitly prohibit the discriminatory incidents taking place within various sectors of society by enacting laws that establish specific offenses (Personal Interview of Professor 1; Human Rights First, 2007, p. 1). The government must also monitor compliance with these norms, enforce penalties for violations (Achiume, 2013, p. 356), and ensure all migrants access to justice. For instance, the State should immediately look into the issue of underreporting by Venezuelans of workplace discrimination and ensure them access to the aforementioned Labor Inspectors to demand their labor rights. Similarly, the State should address the issue of discriminatory evictions by ensuring that migrants who have been illegally thrown out of their homes during the quarantine period have access to justice mechanisms. These steps can also simultaneously help to change the public’s xenophobic attitudes over time by breaking practices and sending the message that discriminatory actions are wrong—not only morally, but also legally.

To conclude, there are a lot of ways that the Ecuadorian State can go about addressing the problem of the public’s xenophobia and discrimination. This conclusion offers five of the most important suggestions: reforming xenophobic government rhetoric, educating the public through community campaigns, encouraging and initiating media reform, granting migrants legal status, and implementing anti-discrimination policies. Beyond this, the State should additionally pay close attention to how structural issues like unemployment can contribute to stereotypes and migrant scapegoating. Implementing policies that effectively combat that problem and take both Ecuadorians and Venezuelans into account can also help to reduce anti-migrant sentiment and behavior. Overall, there is much to be done. Considering that xenophobia in Ecuador is a “growing concern” (Teff, 2019, p. 3), it is crucial for action to be taken as soon as possible.

Supplementary Section: Possible Avenues of Redress

The following bullet points outline some critical ways that the State can act with respect to combatting the problem of the public’s xenophobia and discrimination, including many of the important suggestions made in the conclusion, along with others (such as those that address the specific issue of discriminatory effects) in more depth. These points consist of insights gleaned from sources such as Human Rights First’s “Ten-Point Plan for Combating Hate Crimes” (which the UNHCR considers a “commendable” anti-xenophobic discrimination strategy) (Achiume, 2013, p. 356), as well as writings on xenophobia by scholars and United Nations institutions.

  • High level officials (as well as local leaders) must avoid xenophobic speech. Send out clear messages that verbal and physical acts of xenophobia towards any migrant will not be tolerated. 
  • In partnership with civil society, launch awareness raising and public educational campaigns (such as through media campaigns, thematic seminars, and conventions) that:
    • Emphasize cultural similarities (Paying special attention to regional cultural differences. For example, the campaign launched on the coast could highlight specific similarities between coastal Ecuadorian and Venezuelan culture that may not be present in the sierra). 
    • Directly combat stereotypes such as the belief that Venezuelans cause unemployment among Ecuadorian nationals by taking jobs and that Venezuelans increase insecurity by frequently committing crimes. 
      • Highlight the findings of the World Bank study that demonstrate these stereotypes are false. Such actions can help to promote a “responsible, evidence-based public discourse” that shifts the conversation back to facts (OXFAM, 2019, p. 18) as opposed to generalized stereotypes such as those promoted by the president’s xenophobic tweet in response to the 2019 femicide in Ibarra.
  • Ensure that all public educational campaigns are consistently monitored to assess their impact and success. 
    • Research demonstrates that campaigns attempting to combat xenophobia should have concrete metrics and indicators to be able to evaluate their success (Miller, 2018, p. 5). 
  • Create a nation-wide program with provincial and/or local branches that organizes and hosts community events such as soccer games (a popular sport among Venezuelans and Ecuadorians).
    • These kinds of events can help to highlight cultural similarities between Venezuelan migrants and the Ecuadorian public. Additionally, interaction and contact theory suggests that “meaningful interactions” such as these can help “overcome misperceptions and stereotypes” (Miller, 2018, p. 5). 
    • The State should consider the possibility of hosting more frequent events in the sierra region of the country where the cultural clash between Venezuelans and the host population is stronger. 
  • Media reform: The Defensoria del Pueblo (Ombudsman’s Office) of Ecuador can take steps to combat discriminatory messages or narratives about Venezuelan migrants in the news media. 
    • The Ombudsman’s Office could promote the creation of self-regulatory mechanisms for the media. For example, the office could host a round table with Ecuadorian media outlets to discuss current self-regulatory mechanisms in place to prevent discriminatory messaging and to consider how such mechanisms can be improved/ applied to coverage on Venezuelan migration (Giro Ciudadano Consultores, 2012, p. 82). The round tables should focus on how to avoid encouraging xenophobia and discrimination. Important topics to discuss include: how to appropriately contextualize information (for example, reporting on the number of Venezuelans entering Ecuador should make sure to also emphasize that most migrants are moving on to other countries), how to avoid sensationalizing/ nationalizing crimes by Venezuelan perpetrators, how to avoid an “us vs them” discourse, and how to avoid using words associated with fears on which xenophobic discourse is based (OXFAM, 2019, p. 17), such as “waves.” 
  • Lower and make entry requirements more flexible for Venezuelan migrants.
    • At this point in time, eliminating the visa requirement altogether could lead to xenophobic backlash from the Ecuadorian public and does not seem realistic given entry visa trends in other major receiving countries. However, lowering entry requirements would allow more Venezuelan migrants to enter Ecuador through legal channels, which could help to reduce their risk of exposure to xenophobia and discrimination.  
    • Currently, the $50 fee is extremely difficult for Venezuelan migrants to meet and should be lowered or eliminated. Similarly, as mentioned previously, the apostilled criminal record certificate both reinforces the stereotype of criminality associated with Venezuelans and is nearly impossible for the migrants to obtain. This requirement should be eliminated completely. Finally, given the difficulty of obtaining a valid passport from Venezuela, this requirement should be more flexible. Firstly, expired passports should be permitted. If the migrant does not have this document, any kind of identity document such as a cedula (national ID card), birth certificate, driver’s license, etc. should be accepted. 
  • Implement a new policy to provide Venezuelan migrants legal status.
    • It is critical for the government to provide Venezuelans in Ecuador legal status to allow them to work legally under a contract, help minimize their risk to exploitation and discrimination in the informal employment sector, and reduce their vulnerability to evictions and threats from landlords or employers who say they will report them to authorities to get them deported. 
    • Regularizing migrants’ legal status would allow them to work in the formal sector, which could mean less would have to work as street vendors where they are more likely to get into xenophobic conflicts with Ecuadorian vendors.
    • Ways to offer legal status:
      • Launch a second regularization campaign with more flexible requirements. For example, remove or reduce the $50 fee (required for the VERHU visa), remove the apostilled criminal record requirement, and allow for other identity documents to be used in place of the Venezuelan passport (as outlined in suggestions on entry requirements above). 
        • Expand this regularization option to all Venezuelan migrants, regardless of the date of entry and regardless of whether they entered Ecuador through legal/illegal channels.
      • Offer legal status to migrants who can demonstrate proof of employment (Selee & Bolter, 2020, p. 53). 
  • Establish a national inter-agency consultative mechanism focused on the topic of xenophobia to allow for coordination and coherent activity among all relevant government ministries.
    • As the ILO, IOM, OHCHR, and UNHCR suggest, it is important for this kind of mechanism to involve representatives from social partners, business, and migration NGOs (such as the Misión Scalabriniana) to allow for national coordination among all relevant actors (ILO et al., 2001, p. 22).
  • Via every government ministry, collect data to identify specific patterns of xenophobia and anti-migrant discrimination by the public. Create a virtual repository of these incidents (Republic of South Africa, 2019). Generate norms and issue “acuerdos ministeriales” that specifically point to these incidents of discrimination and clearly state that such actions are prohibited. 
    • Although the Codigo Organico Integral Penal prohibits discrimination on the basis of nationality and national origin, a human mobility specialist and professor at a university in Ecuador explains that it is not enough to simply prohibit discrimination in general (Personal Interview of Professor 1). Instead, it is important to describe in detail what these acts of discrimination look like on a daily basis and to clearly state that they are not allowed. In other words, the government should enact laws that establish specificoffenses (Human Rights First, 2007, p. 1). 
  • Monitor compliance with anti-discrimination laws/mechanisms (as well as relevant laws/mechanisms meant to protect vulnerable populations), enforce criminal or civil penalties for rights violations perpetrated by individuals motivated by xenophobia (Achiume, 2013, p. 356), and ensure Venezuelan migrants access to justice.
    • For example, as described previously, all Venezuelan migrants, regardless of migratory status, have access to Ministry of Labor inspectors and the courts to demand rights such as back pay, remuneration for unjust firings, social security, and other benefits (van Teijlingen, 2011, p. 9). However, many are afraid to report because their employers threaten to report them and get them deported. The government should conduct periodic surveys to monitor underreporting by victims in situations like these (Human Rights First, 2007, p. 2). It is also important to make sure that Venezuelan migrants know they have access to these justice mechanisms. Moreover, when migrants do report these violations, it is crucial for the government to impose the appropriate sanctions on offenders.
  • Address structural issues (such as unemployment) that contribute to xenophobic sentiment and migrant scapegoating. 
    • Make sure to include both migrants and members of the host community in policy responses. 
    • Unemployment: The State should develop a unifying local and national approach to lowering unemployment and helping people find jobs (Bond et al., 2010, p. 32). 
      • The Ministry of Labor should develop and enhance job creation mechanisms (Republic of South Africa, 2019, p. 58). 
      • The Ministry of Labor could implement a program of “apoyo a emprendimientos” (“support for small businesses”) for Ecuadorians and Venezuelan migrants. For example, the program could provide seed capital for starting a business (Schmitz-Pranghe, 2018, p. 5).

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Endnotes

[1] The other two nations that have received the largest number of Venezuelans are Colombia and Peru (World Bank, 2020a, p. 20). 

[2] In this paper, the term “Ecuadorian public” refers to Ecuadorian civilians as opposed to State actors. 

[3] Ibarra is a city in the sierra region of Ecuador.

[4] The study surveyed respondents in eight Ecuadorian cities including Quito, Guayaquil, Cuenca, Santo Domingo, Machala, Manta, Portoviejo, and Ibarra (UNHCR & MIES, 2019).

[5] In Ecuador, it is common for landlords to put up signs on the streets announcing rooms, apartments, and houses that are available for rent (Personal Interview of Advocacy Expert at Ecuadorian NGO). 

[6] The online platform Response to Venezuelans (R4V), which was launched by the UN and civil society organizations, conducted a survey of Venezuelan and Ecuadorian households in Ecuador between July and August of 2020. It found that 30 percent of Venezuelan survey respondents had to change residence during the health crisis, and of that group, 44 percent had done so because they were evicted. In comparison, only 16 percent of Ecuadorian respondents reported moving during the crisis, of which 26 percent had done so as the result of being evicted (R4V, 2020, p. 18). 

[7] I will elaborate on this point below. 

[8] There have been reports of Ecuadorian employers putting up discriminatory hiring signs. For instance, two privately owned factories in Cuenca put up a public announcement declaring that they would hire “no foreigners” (Castillo, 2020, para. 14). 

[9] The sierra region is known as the central belt of Ecuador that runs from the North to the South of the nation and includes cities such as Quito and Ibarra (EOS Ecuador, 2013, para. 5). 

[10] The coastal region consists of the western side of Ecuador, including the entire Pacific coastline (EOS Ecuador, 2013, para. 5). 

[11] Moreno’s tweet was criticized by various human rights workers, including the Americas director of Human Rights Watch, Jose Miguel Vivanco, who tweeted that Moreno’s message would only “increase xenophobia” and “propagate collective hysteria” (Brown, 2019, para. 9). 

[12] I will elaborate on this point below. 

[13] The VERHU regularization initiative ended on August 13, 2020, meaning that no one else can submit applications for the visa. According to Ecuadorian government officials, a second phase of the initiative is being considered, but has not been confirmed (Franco, 2020, para. 13). 

[14] Labor inspectors are employed by the Ministry of Labor to ensure that employers are complying with labor laws. These inspectors visit large employers to verify compliance and take complaints and manage mediation sessions that involve any employer (van Teijlingen, 2011, p. 9). 

[15] Without a steady source of income, Venezuelans can also have a difficult time paying for basic necessities such as food, water, rent, education, and specific forms of healthcare, which are all necessary to be healthy and to live (van Teijlingen, 2011, p. 19).

[16] In addition, the Inter-American Commission on Human Rights (IACHR) has also confirmed State responsibility with respect to private violations of human rights in the context of domestic violence, in the case of Jessica Lenahan v. United States (2011). Jessica Lenahan was a domestic violence survivor who had a restraining order against her husband. However, when this man kidnapped her daughters, the local police failed to enforce the restraining order. Ultimately, Lenahan’s daughters were found dead in her husband’s car. The Commission concluded that the “State failed to act with due diligence to protect…Lenahan and [her daughters] from domestic violence…” (IACHR, 2011, p. 52). It highlighted that the “inter-American system has affirmed…that it is not the formal existence of judicial remedies that demonstrates due diligence, but rather that they are available and effective. Therefore, when the State apparatus leaves human rights violations unpunished and the victim’s full enjoyment of human rights is not promptly restored, the State fails to comply with its positive duties under international human rights law. The same principle applies when a State allows private persons to act freely and with impunity to the detriment of the rights recognized in the governing instruments of the inter-American system” (IACHR, 2011, p. 55). 

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