Forced displacement growing in Colombia despite peace agreement

10 March 2017

This is a summary of what was said by UNHCR spokesperson William Spindler – to whom quoted text may be attributed – at today's press briefing at the Palais des Nations in Geneva.

A view of the market district in San Jose or San Jude neighborhood in Buenaventura, in Colombia’s Valle del Cauca department, August 2014 file photo.  © UNHCR/Juan Arredondo

Violence continues to uproot thousands of people in Colombia, despite a peace agreement signed last November between the Government and the Revolutionary Armed Forces of Colombia (FARC).

Fighting for territorial control in the Colombian Pacific Coast region among irregular armed groups has displaced 3,549 people (913 families) since the beginning of 2017, according to local authorities. Last year, UNHCR recorded 11,363 people (3,068 families) displaced by violence in the same areas.

While recognizing the important efforts by the Government to consolidate peace and the authorities’ commitment to ensure that the rights of victims, including internally displaced people and refugees, are addressed, we are deeply concerned at the increasing levels of internal displacement, which affect several communities, particularly in the Chocó, Cauca, Valle del Cauca and Nariño departments in Colombia’s Pacific Coast.

The localities particularly touched by the violence are Bajo Calima and the rural area of Buenaventura in the department of Valle del Cauca; the Litoral San Juan, Lloró, Alto Baudó and Domingodó in the department of Chocó; Timbiquí in Cauca; and Santa Barbara de Iscuandé and the community of El Pital (rural area of Tumaco) in Nariño.

Afro-Colombian communities and indigenous people have been particularly affected by the violence, which is endangering their survival. These two ethnic groups account for 10% and 3% respectively of the 7.4 million internally displaced persons (IDPs) in Colombia.

Since the signing of the peace agreement, increased violence by new armed groups has resulted in killings, forced recruitment — including of children — gender-based violence and limited access to education, water and sanitation, as well as movement restrictions and forced displacement of the civilian population.

The UN refugee agency reiterates the need to ensure that the civilian population has access to protection and assistance. At the same time, any eventual returns of IDPs to their areas of origin need to take place in conditions of safety and dignity.

UNHCR is present in the Pacific region of Colombia with four field offices and will continue to support the local authorities and communities to address the protection risks they face, while supporting a comprehensive institutional response to the situation.

 

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