Ecuador has had no large-scale immigration since the colonial period, and emigrants have generally outnumbered newcomers. There was an influx of European refugees in the late 1930s. In 1959, a modest attempt was made to colonize the northern coastal province of Esmeraldas with Italian families.
Within Ecuador, the largest migration is from rural areas to the cities, as urban employment opportunities widen. There is also a growing movement from the overpopulated highlands to the virgin lands of the Oriente and the coast.
As of May 1997 there were around 14,500 persons who concerned UNHCR in Ecuador. Most of these people were from Cuba and Colombia, living and working in the capital, Quito. There were also a number of rural refugees from Colombia, living in the provinces of Esmeraldes, Corchi, and Sucumbios, near the Colombian border. In 1999, there were 277 refugees under UNHCR's program in Ecuador, mostly from Colombia and Peru. However, Ecuador—like other Latin American countries—was beginning to experience an increasing number of asylum seekers from outside the Americas in 1999, particularly from Africa, Asia, and the Middle East. The net migration rate for Ecuador in 1999 was 0.55 migrants per 1,000 population. The total number of migrants in 2000 was 82,000. In that year worker remittances totaled $1,317,000, or 9.6% of GDP. The government views the migration rates as satisfactory.