Some 340,000 Peruvians remained internally displaced at the end of the 1998. About 50 Peruvians were recognized as refugees in neighboring countries, half of them in Colombia. Peru hosted only 30 refugees from various countries; 14 persons applied for asylum in Peru during 1998. Of the latter, 11 were rejected and 3 were awaiting a decision on their claims.

Internal Displacement

Hundreds of thousands of Peruvians fled their Andean homes in the late 1980s and early 1990s. The displaced fled a violent insurgency and equally violent counter-insurgency, and widespread human rights abuses by both parties to the conflict. By 1994, the Communist Party of Peru/Shining Path insurgents had lost much of their strength, and many of the displaced began to return home.

Until mid-1997, Peruvian NGOs and the Peruvian government estimated the conflict had displaced 600,000 people. In July 1997, the Mesa Nacional sobre Desplazamiento (National Roundtable on Displacement), an NGO consortium, reassessed the total number displaced during the conflict at 430,000. The Mesa noted, however, that as many as 1.6 million people had been affected by the conflict.

The government also undertook a reassessment in 1997 and reasserted the 600,000 figure. The discrepancy in figures primarily resulted from the government's inclusion of some 180,000 people whom it described as urban displaced in its figures. The Mesa figure only included people displaced from rural areas.

The government and the Mesa also differed in their estimates of the number of displaced persons who returned home. In 1997, the Mesa estimated the cumulative number of returnees at only some 69,000. It reported that about 2,200 displaced families (13,000 people) returned to their homes during 1998. According to the Mesa's figures, therefore, some 347,000 Peruvians remained displaced at the end of 1998. According to the government, however, a cumulative total of 220,000 displaced persons had returned home by the end of 1998, leaving 340,000 displaced.

A large majority of the displaced did not plan to return to their areas of origin, the Mesa reported. While many had chosen to settle permanently in the cities and towns to which they had originally fled, some still feared going home because of the Shining Path. The guerrilla group had been severely weakened, and political violence continued to decline in 1998, but the Shining Path was far from dead. It still had about 1,000 fighters and, according to a study commissioned by the U.S. government, sought to make a comeback during 1998. The Shining Path was responsible for 168 of the 223 attacks by armed groups that left more than 70 people, mostly civilians, dead in Peru during the year.

A positive development during the year was that the government provided Provisional Identity Documents to more than 356,000 people, many displaced, who lacked documentation. However, only some 21,000 of those who received the provisional documentation applied for and received permanent National Identity Documents. According to the Mesa, that was primarily because a large number of displaced people in particular had not completed Peru's mandatory military service. Many had objected to the military's role in the conflict. Without proof of military service, males could not apply for the permanent identity document.

Internally displaced Peruvians remained among the best organized displaced populations in the world. Beginning in the early 1990s, they formed displaced persons associations to speak for themselves. In 1996, they established a national coordinating body for displaced persons' associations that boasted a membership of some 9,000 families, or about 45,000 people. Displaced women have been particularly active in organizing. In March 1998, they held a national conference of women affected by the conflict that drew 2,700 participants.


This 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.