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Colombia: The recruitment methods of the Revolutionary Armed Forces of Colombia (Fuerzas Armadas Revolucionarias de Colombia, FARC) and government measures to help FARC members reintegrate into civilian society (2005 - February 2008)

Publisher Canada: Immigration and Refugee Board of Canada
Author Research Directorate, Immigration and Refugee Board of Canada, Ottawa
Publication Date 14 April 2008
Citation / Document Symbol COL102787.FE
Cite as Canada: Immigration and Refugee Board of Canada, Colombia: The recruitment methods of the Revolutionary Armed Forces of Colombia (Fuerzas Armadas Revolucionarias de Colombia, FARC) and government measures to help FARC members reintegrate into civilian society (2005 - February 2008), 14 April 2008, COL102787.FE, available at: [accessed 27 May 2016]
DisclaimerThis is not a UNHCR publication. UNHCR is not responsible for, nor does it necessarily endorse, its content. Any views expressed are solely those of the author or publisher and do not necessarily reflect those of UNHCR, the United Nations or its Member States.

FARC recruitment methods

Forcible recruitment by the Revolutionary Armed Forces of Colombia (Fuerzas Armadas Revolucionarias de Colombia, FARC) remains rare (Le Temps 23 Feb. 2007; Le Monde 11 Jan. 2008). In its statement to the 7th session of the United Nations (UN) Human Rights Council, Amnesty International (AI) reported that it had received testimony about the forced recruitment of children by guerrilla groups (21 Feb. 2008; see also AI 2007). However, according to a representative of the UN Children's Fund (UNICEF), which works to protect children in Colombia, [translation] "children are not forcibly recruited; rather, they volunteer ... seeing it as possibility for life-long employment and income (UN n.d.; see also Reuters 31 July 2007; Le Temps 23 Feb. 2007). In an interview with the Colombia Journal, Raúl Reyes, a FARC secretariat member who died in early 2008 (BBC 1 Mar. 2008), stated that people who join the FARC are between the ages of 15 and 30 years and that forced recruitment is prohibited, because it goes against the organization's safety rules (12 July 2007; see also DPA 6 Aug. 2007). According to an article in Le Monde, rural areas are [translation] "a seemingly inexhaustible source of soldiers" (11 Jan. 2008). According to Le Temps, FARC is enlisting large numbers of illiterate people under the age of 15 years (23 Feb. 2007). A UNICEF representative in Colombia told Radio Caracol that the FARC seduces young girls and that "as soon as the girls are recruited for the groups they are used sexually and forced to have abortions if they become pregnant" (DPA 6 Aug. 2007; see also AFP 17 Jan. 2008 and UN 21 Dec. 2007). UNICEF has had reports of such recruitment practices in the provinces of Cauca, Nariño, Chocó, Tolima, Arauca and Bolívar, and in cities such as Soacha, Cali and Cartagena de Indias (DPA 6 Aug. 2007). According to the UN Office of the Special Representative of the Secretary-General for Children and Armed Conflict, children have been recruited in the departments of Cauca, Antioquia, Sucre, Bolívar, Cundinamarca, Guaviare, Meta and Nariño (21 Dec. 2007). The Office also reports that FARC members frequently visit schools in Cauca department to recruit children (ibid.).

According to the Xinhua News Agency, Colombia's education minister (Ministra de Educación) stated that the intelligence service had found that armed groups were present at both public and private universities (12 Dec. 2007). Colombia's vice-president has also stated that recruitment is being done at universities (El Universal 10 May 2007). As reported in the daily El Universal, FARC has infiltrated the urban networks of left-wing organizations in Colombia, Mexico and other countries using educated and [translation] "highly politicized" non-combatants (El Universal 10 May 2007). The Minister of Education also indicated that the government would monitor students susceptible to recruitment by FARC (Xinhua 12 Dec. 2007). The Vice-President told El Universal that FARC recruits in Bolivia and in Paraguay using the same methods used in Colombia: [translation] "by funding groups and seeking out alliances" (El Universal 10 May 2007).

Government measures to help FARC members reintegrate into civilian society

The government has stepped up its advertising campaigns to persuade FARC members to desert (BBC 1 Feb. 2008). According to the British Broadcasting Corporation (BBC), every deserter is debriefed by the Colombian military (ibid.). Demobilized combatants have access to the Program for Reintegration into Civilian Life (Programa para la Reincorporación a la Vida Civil, PRVC), which is offered by the High Council for Reintegration (Alta Consejería para la Reintegración Social y Económica de Personas y Grupos Alzados en Armas) (OAS 3 July 2007, para. 44; see also International Crisis Group 20 Oct. 2006, 8). Under the program, former combatants receive an allowance for 18 months, plus housing and training (International Crisis Group 20 Oct. 2006, 8 and footnote 70). Official data published by Agence France-Presse in 2006 indicate that 50.2 percent of the demobilized combatants were former members of the FARC (24 June 2006). According to the Director of Penitentiary Services, guerrillas perform [translation] "'reintegration work'" in a remote vacation centre near Chicoral, in Tolima department (AFP 5 June 2007). The Director stated that the guerrillas are [translation] "'monitored by a team of psychologists and social workers, because a sudden return to freedom could be a shock for them'" (ibid.).

The chair of the committee for solidarity with political prisoners, which helps detained members of several Colombian guerrilla groups, stated in an interview published in the daily Libération that some members of the group [translation] "'had already announced that they had abandoned guerrilla life and were in prison for non-sedition offences'" (4 June 2007). The committee chair added that it is difficult to say how many prisoners are FARC members, but that they represent about half of the 4,000 guerrillas in prison (Libération 4 June 2007). According to the BBC, over the last two years, the rate of desertion from the FARC has become a source of concern for the group (1 Feb. 2008). The Belgian daily La Croix reports that 2,000 members deserted in 2007 (13 Jan. 2008). Colombia's President, Álvaro Uribe, told the French daily L'Express that 3,000 guerrillas had demobilized in 2007 (22 Jan. 2008), and, according to an article in Le Figaro, the Ministry of National Defence (Ministerio de Defensa Nacional) puts the number of FARC deserters at more than 10,000 (15 Dec. 2007). In February 2007, Reuters reported that Colombian police and army operations in Cali and Buenaventura had resulted in one of the largest rebel surrenders since 2002 (7 Feb. 2007). According to a 5 March 2007 article published by the EFE News Service, eight FARC members surrendered to army troops in Caquetá department. Civilian authorities were to decide whether the eight could participate in the government-run reintegration program (EFE 5 Mar. 2007). Information on that decision and on the program's success rate could not be found among sources consulted by the Research Directorate. However, on 7 October 2006, the EFE News Service reported on the case of a FARC member who deserted in 2001, entered a government reintegration program, and later joined a unit of the paramilitary United Self-Defence Forces of Colombia (Autodefensas Unidas de Colombia, AUC).

This Response was prepared after researching publicly accessible information currently available to the Research Directorate within time constraints. This Response is not, and does not purport to be, conclusive as to the merit of any particular claim for refugee protection. Please find below the list of additional sources consulted in researching this Information Request.


Agence France-Presse (AFP). 17 January 2008. AFP. "Forcée de déserter." (Le Soleil/
_____. 5 June 2007. "Vacances forcées pour les guérilleros repentis des FARC." (Factiva)
_____. 24 June 2006. "Bogota profite du Mondial pour inciter les guérilleros à déserter." (Factiva)

Amnesty International (AI). 21 February 2008. "Colombie : déclaration d'Amnesty International à la 7ème session du Conseil des droits de l'homme des Nations Unies." (AMR23/007/2008) [Accessed 3 Mar. 2008]
_____. 2007. "Colombie." Amnesty International – Rapport 2007. [Accessed 20 Feb. 2008]

British Broadcasting Corporation (BBC). 1 February 2008. "Colombia's Rebels: A Fading Force." [Accessed 20 Feb. 2008]
_____. 1 March 2008. "Murió Raúl Reyes." [Accessed 11 Apr. 2008]

Colombia Journal. 12 July 2007. Garry Leech. "Interview with FARC Commander Raul Reyes." [Accessed 10 Mar. 2008]

La Croix [Brussels]. 13 January 2008. "Les FARC font régner la terreur dans les zones de non-droit." [Accessed 10 Mar. 2008]

Deutsche Presse Agentur (DPA). 6 August 2007. "Colombian Guerillas Seduce Girls to Recruit Them, UNICEF Says." [Accessed 24 Feb. 2008]

EFE News Service. 5 March 2007. "8 FARC Guerrillas Surrender to Colombian Army." (Factiva)
_____. 7 October 2006. "Ex-Guerrilla Says Bogota Terror Attacks Staged by Military." (Factiva)

L'Express [Paris]. 22 January 2008. Gyldén Axel. "Uribe – Mon combat contre les FARC." [Accessed 23 Mar. 2008]

Le Figaro [Paris]. 15 December 2007. Pascale Mariani and Roméo Langlois. "FARC : La plus vieille guérilla du monde." (
_____. 20 October 2006. Tougher Challenges Ahead for Colombia's Uribe. (Latin America Briefing No. 11). [Accessed 20 Feb. 2008]

Libération [Paris]. 4 June 2007. Michel Taille. "Ceux qui ont accepté ont dû être protégés." (Factiva)

Le Monde [Paris]. 11 January 2008. Marie Delcas. "Dans les bottes des FARC." (

Organization of American States (OAS). 3 July 2007. " Ninth Quarterly Report of the Secretary General to the Permanent Council, on the Mission to Support the Peace Process in Colombia (OAS/MAPP)." [Accessed 22 Feb. 2008]

Reuters. 7 February 2007. "More than 100 Colombia Rebels Surrender – Police." (Factiva)

Le Temps [Geneva]. 23 February 2007. Marie Delcas. "Les dérives de la guérilla colombienne." (

United Nations (UN). 21 December 2007. Office of the Special Representative of the Secretary-General for Children and Armed Conflict. "Évolution de la situation en Colombie." [Accessed 26 Mar. 2008]
_____. N.d. "Jorge Valles, représentant UNICEF en Colombie." [Accessed 11 Apr. 2008]

El Universal [Caracas]. 10 May 2007. Doris Gómora. "Detectan apoyo de FARC para izquierda mexicana." (Factiva)

Xinhua News Agency. 12 December 2007. "Colombia Says to Watch Students at Risk of Rebel Recruitment." (Factiva)

Additional Sources Consulted

Internet sources, including: Asamblea Permanente de la Sociedad Civil por la Paz, Centro de Investigación y Educación Popular (CINEP), Civil Wars, Colombia Human Rights Network, Colombia Support Network, Comunidad de Paz de San José de Apartadó, Conflict, Security & Development, Contemporary Security Policy, Defense & Security Analysis, Democracy and Security, Derechos Human Rights, Dow Jones International News, Equipo Nizkor, Freedom House, Fundación Ideas para la Paz, Fundación Instituto para la Construcción de la Paz (FICONPAZ), Human Rights First, Instituto Latinoamericano de Servicios Legales Alternativos (ILSA), Instituto Popular de Capacitación, International Security, International Social Security Review, Janes's Intelligence Review, Journal of Conflict & Security Law, Movimiento de Víctimas de Crímenes de Estado, Peace & Security, Security Dialogue, Security Journal, Le Soir, Studies in Conflict and Terrorism, Le Temps, Terrorism and Political Violence.

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