UN refugee agency anxious over worsening conditions in Colombia
|Publisher||UN News Service|
|Publication Date||22 August 2008|
|Cite as||UN News Service, UN refugee agency anxious over worsening conditions in Colombia, 22 August 2008, available at: http://www.refworld.org/docid/48b287c8c.html [accessed 25 October 2014]|
The United Nations refugee agency expressed deep concern today over the humanitarian situation of thousands of Columbians fleeing the conflict embroiling the country's Pacific coast region.
Fighting between two rival guerrilla armies and national forces has forced some 800 people to escape to the small town of Lopez de Micay, where most are sheltered in school buildings with only one meal a day for the past week, reported the UN High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR).
"Their position is very precarious," Andrej Mahecic, a spokesperson for the agency, told reporters in Geneva.
"The majority of the displaced belong to indigenous and Afro-Columbian groups; more than half of them are children."
Another 1,000 people have taken flight from their homes in the mountainous Andes region of Nariño further down the Pacific Coast because of fighting between the Columbian army and an irregular armed group.
"Many have taken refuge in Policarpa, which has been coping with repeated waves of forced displacement in the past few years," Mr. Mahecic said.
The agency is also gravely concerned for some 1,000 civilians trapped by warring factions further north around the villages of Santa Cruz and Santa Rosa.
"We urge all actors in the conflict to respect the rights of all civilians to freedom of movement and to protection," Mr. Mahecic said.
Provincial authorities reported earlier in the week that Nariño, which borders Ecuador to the south, alone shelters more than 100,000 internally displaced persons (IDPs), more than a quarter of them in the past year alone.
UNHCR said the growing numbers of IDPs is a trend affecting the entire region.
The cultivation of illicit crops, such as cocaine, along with the presence of irregular armed groups, landmines, killings and summary executions have all contributed to the critical situation facing IDPs in Nariño for more than two years.
The agency also said it was concerned about other Pacific coast areas, with the Government registering over 70,000 people as uprooted in the departments of Cauca, Valle del Cauca and Choco.
"Preliminary figures for the last six months of the year show a similar, or worsening trend," he added.