Associate Protection Officer At UN High Commissioner for Refugees

Associate Protection Officer

Protection Unit

UNHCR, the UN Refugee Agency, is offering a UNOPS International ICA within the Protection Unit in our Branch Office in Quito. UNHCR is a global organization dedicated to saving lives, protecting rights and building a better future for refugees, forcibly displaced communities and stateless people.

Every year, millions of men, women and children are forced to flee their homes to escape conflict and persecution. We are in over 125 countries, using our expertise to protect and care for millions.

Title: Associate Protection Officer

Duty Station: Quito, Ecuador

Duration: One year

Contract Type: UNOPS International-Specialist ICA, Level (P2/IICA-1)

Closing date: 14 April 2021

Start date: 01 June 2021

Organisational context

Ecuador is a State Party to the 1951 Convention relating to the Status of Refugees (since 1955); and its 1967 Protocol (since 1969). Ecuador is a State party to main international and regional human rights instruments recognizing the right to asylum. It is also party to the 1954 Convention relating to the Status of Stateless Persons (since 1970), and in 2012 it acceded to the 1961 Convention on the Reduction of Statelessness. Ecuador is the Latin American country hosting the largest refugee population in the region. According to statistics provided by the Refugee Directorate, more than 230,000 people have sought protection and some 65,000 have been recognized as refugees. The vast majority of the refugees in Ecuador are Colombians. Most recent numbers provided by the Intout of which more than 10 400 correspond to Venezuelan nationals and 4 800 to Colombians.

With regard to Venezuelans, Ecuador is now the third destination country in South America behind Colombia and Peru: according to Migration authorities, up to 400,000 Venezuelans are estimated to be living in the country, and it is the second country in terms of providing other forms of legal stay – some 128,000 residence permits (mainly UNASUR) have been issued so far. It is also a transit country. Venezuelans remaining in Ecuador are essentially urban: 45% of them have settled in Quito, some 20% in Guayaquil, followed by Manta, Cuenca and Ibarra, followed by Ambato, Santo Domingo, Quevedo, Latacunga and Riobamba, as well as Machala and Huaquillas town. UNHCR supports the work of the national asylum authorities by providing technical advice and financial support, regular training and capacity-building support to ensure the implementation of fair and efficient refugee status determination procedures.

Between 2017 and 2018, with UNHCR’s support, the backlog of 25,000 asylum claims was cleared, and some 4 500 refugees were recognized (as many as in the previous five years together); however, since then the backlog has riseb again as the number of asylum applications, both from Colombians and Venezuelans, had already exceeded its historical records of past years, surpassing 20,000 annual petitions in 2018 and 2019. It is also worth noting that admissibility rates have improved significantly – reaching some 60% overall (although the admissibility rate for Venezuelans remains overall low: around 12%).

While UNHCR considers the overall protection climate in Ecuador as favorable (mainly in view of government policies and stated commitments that allow refugees access to documentation, public services and the labor-market, thus paving their way towards local integration), challenges persist as actual access to services is often hindered by bureaucratic obstacles, and refugees encounter instances of xenophobia and discrimination in day to day interactions with the local population as well as local authorities. It is of concern that, even after a change of government position from systematically rejecting Venezuelan asylumseekers to a rate of admissibility to the RSD procedure of over 60%, many Venezuelans still report difficulties to access asylum (e.g. even to enter the MFA building), “encouragement” or even threats to opt for residence permits, and ill-treatment by asylum officers.

In this challenging context, amendments to the human mobility law may revert some of the achievements of the strengthened legal protection framework. New restrictions on access to the territory for Venezuelans require the presence of UNHCR at border areas to ensure persons in need of international protection are identified, their access to the territory ensured, and cases referred to the asylum system. Additionally, cuts in government spending have resulted in a reduction of RSD personnel and local asylum offices, potentially reducing access to asylum and creating increasing delays and backlog. The International Protection Directorate in Ecuador has recognized the challenges faced by the asylum system in Ecuador and the need to continue with the implementation of the Quality Assurance Initiave QAI. Therefore, it is necessary to hire the services of a consultant with vast experience in asylum, Human Rights a Human Mobility, in order to strengthen the government´s capacities and uphold an efficient and fair asylum system, in line with international standards.

The position

The Associate Protection Officer is directly supervised by the Protection Officer, while receiving guidance from relevant protection / coordination staff at national level.

Duties and responsibilities

The incumbent is expected to perform the following activities:

• In coordination with UNHCR and the International Protection Directorate, execute all activities related to the implementation of QAI in Ecuador.

• Coordinate working meetings with the International Protection Directorate to plan and follow up on the implementation of QAI diagnostic phases in Ecuador.

• Provide technical support to International Protection Directorate in the development and implementation of a case management strategy and the analysis of cases of refugees and stateless persons.

• Promote technical support and information sharing between UNHCR and the International Protection Directorate to facilitate and solve enquiries, sharing good practices and guaranteeing the application of International Refugee and Statelessness Law and International Human Rights Law.

• Support the strengthening of skills of the International Protection Directorate staff through:

a) the identification of training needs;

b) participation and contribution to the training program about refugee, statelessness and other relevant issues agreed with the Under-Secretary International Protection;

c) analysis and discussion of complex cases through regular meetings with eligibility officers and/or commissioners;

d) elaboration and/or revision of protocols and/or procedural guidelines;

e) participation, as observer, in meetings held by Ecuador’s Refugee Status Determination Commission.

• Provide technical support to the International Protection Directorate for the development of the regulation for the Human Mobility Law, its complementary norms and current reform process.

• Establish a reference and counter-reference mechanism of cases between the International Protection Directorate, other state institutions and UNHCR and its partners, with the ultimate aim of supporting the search of durable solutions for the refugee population.

• Collaborate in the implementation of PRIMES by providing technical support for the registration strategy, by drafting a registration manual and facilitate training sessions on registration.

Essential minimum qualifications and professional experience required

  • 3 years relevant experience with Undergraduate degree; or 2 years relevant experience with Graduate degree; or 1-year relevant experience with Doctorate degree.
  • Good experience in undertaking and managing RSD and asylum systems.
  • Knowledge/experience in the region is mandatory
  • Strong knowledge and experience in developing and providing training on RSD and other protection-related issues.
  • Good communication skill, both internal and external
  • Excellent English and Spanish drafting skill – Good knowledge of Microsoft programmes, such as Word, Excel, Power Point, database system
  • Solid knowledge of protection principles and issues including UNHCR engagement in RSD and strengthening of asylum systems.
  • Solid analytical skills and sound judgement in interaction with both persons of concern and partners, particularly when engaging in sensitive situations
  • Knowledge of / experience in statelessness situations would be an asset
  • Excellent analytical, communication and inter-personal skills, including facilitation of trainings and internal coaching – Good knowledge of UNHCR’s programmes and protection matters
  • Political awareness and sensitivity
  • Flexibility and adaptability, particularly in time of emergency and changing working environment
  • Orientation towards solutions and actions
  • Ability to work in a team but also in independence
  • Upholding of team spirits and peaceful working environment


The successful candidate will be based in Quito, Ecuador.


The position is for 1-year and the start date is June 1, 2021. It is a full-time role with working hours starting from 08h30 to 17h30 Monday to Friday (40 hours per week).

How to apply

To learn more and to apply, visit

The UNHCR workforce consists of many diverse nationalities, cultures, languages and opinions. UNHCR seeks to sustain and strengthen this diversity to ensure equal opportunities as well as an inclusive working environment for its entire workforce. Applications are encouraged from all qualified candidates without distinction on grounds of race, colour, sex, national origin, age, religion, disability, sexual orientation and gender identity.

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September 2023