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Armed Conflict in Western Colombia has Displaced Thousands of Civilians

Over 13000 people forced to leave their home due to increased insecurity in western Colombia Over 13000 people forced to leave their home due to increased insecurity in western Colombia Le Monde/AFP

13 May 2016
Over 13,000 people have been displaced in the past two months due to the fighting between illegal groups in Western Colombia.

Colombia has endured a civil war since the 1960s, which continues to affect the civilian population today. In the past two months, over 13,000 people were forced to leave their homes due to the increased insecurity from the armed conflicts between illegal groups fighting for territory in western Colombia. The displacement has mostly affected Afro-Colombian and indigenous communities, and today the United Nations refugee agency called on all parties to the conflict to guarantee the safety of the civilian population.

The five-decade conflict in Colombia has produced the world’s second-biggest displacement situation after Syria. Over the years, 6.7 million people have been internally displaced, accounting for 13 per cent of the entire population. More than 360,000 Colombians have been officially recognized as refugees, most of which have fled to Ecuador, the only Latin American country with the largest number of refugees.

Armed conflict between the Colombian government, paramilitary groups and left-wing guerrillas such as the Revolutionary Armed Forces of Colombia (FARC) and the National Liberation Army (ELN), have tainted the country for decades. Hostilities among guerrilla groups fighting for territory in Chocó department have forced more than 6,000 people to flee the fighting in the past two months. Further fighting near the Baudo, Atrato and San Juan rivers has restricted the movement of another 7,000 people.

William Spindler, spokesperson of the Office of the UN High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR), said in a news briefing that the displacement has mostly affected Afro-Colombians and indigenous people. “For these people, access to livelihoods, including fishing, hunting and agriculture, has been completely cut off and their children are no longer able to go to school” said Spindler.

A peace dialogue was launched in 2012 between the Government of Colombia and the FARC. It was recently announced that they would launch formal negotiations with ELN, to put an end to the conflict. The UNHCR urgently calls for the guarantee of the safety of the civilian population. “This includes refraining from establishing military bases in or near civilian settlements and carrying out bombing raids in these areas. It is also essential to address the structural causes of displacement, including control over territory and resources,” reported Spindler.


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