With air travel shutting down everywhere, Ecuador is the only country whose border has remained closed to its own nationals and residents, stranding thousands. The Frente Plurinacional por el Derecho al Retorno a Ecuador has brought together more than 600 stranded Ecuadorians to demand their right to return home.
Los Angeles, California, United States., April 1, 2020 – Amid emergency air travel restrictions, Ecuador is the only country whose border has remained closed even to its own nationals and residents. Thousands have been barred abroad with dwindling resources. Most of these stranded Ecuadorians are in United States and Mexico, many in Southern Florida and Mexico City.
More than 3000 Ecuadorian citizens and residents travelling abroad demand their right to return, contacting the National Assembly’s Commission on Sovereignty, International Relations and Comprehensive Security. Last week, chartered flights from other nations arrived in Ecuador airports to repatriate their own citizens. These planes were ordered to arrive empty by the country’s executive branch, who have yet to agree on policies for the return of their stranded citizens who are not minors, handicapped, pregnant or elderly.
This is a violation of international law. The International Declaration of Human Rights states in Article 13.2: “Everyone has the right to leave any country, including their own, and the right to return to their country.” Ecuador’s Office of the Ombudsman – charged with “the defense of the rights of the Ecuador’s inhabitants and Ecuadorians outside the country” – declared:
“our firmest rejection of the flagrant violation of the rights of our Ecuadorian community abroad who have been stranded in transit or with an urgent need to return to their country, whose situation hangs between their defenselessness and the indifference shown by those whose obligation it is to attend to them directly, in person, diligently and effectively in foreign territory through our diplomatic corps and its network of assistants, especially in the context of a humanitarian crisis of the pandemic emergency activated throughout the world as a result of the spread of COVID-19.”
The Ombudsman warns that the Ecuadorian government actions “may lead the State to neglect its international duties, if due to inaction, Ecuadorians face contagion or even death in places that are currently declared epidemiological hotspots.”
The Ecuadorian government has rightly begun with priority repatriation of vulnerable groups. Yet more than two weeks after the cancellation of all flights they have yet to respond to the thousands of other Ecuadorians and residents stranded abroad.
Frente Plurinacional por el Derecho al Retorno a Ecuador is an ad hoc and online group of Ecuadorian citizens and residents has organized to demand the right to return to Ecuador