U.S. Committee for Refugees and Immigrants World Refugee Survey 2005 - Colombia



Internally Displaced Persons (IDPs)  The internal armed conflict continued in many parts of the country. The Consultancy for Human Rights and Displacement estimated that 288,000 Colombians were newly displaced inside the country (39 percent more than the previous year) reaching an estimated 3.4 million accumulated since 1985, although the U.S. Committee for Refugees and Immigrants estimated that about 15 percent of those may have since returned.

Fighting between the Government, rebels, and paramilitaries, including a counterinsurgency offensive against the Revolutionary Armed Forces of Colombia in the south, increased the number of non-combatant casualties and displacements. The Government's coca burning and fumigation policy and unidentified groups' threats and extra-judicial executions did so as well. Families also fled conflict areas to protect their children from forced recruitment.

The Government registered 137,000 newly displaced persons, not counting those displaced by the fumigation campaign, those afraid to register, and those rejected under the Government's strict criteria, burden of proof, and one-year time limit for registration.

Armed actors confined an increasing number of communities, restricting their movement and access to goods, to force them to leave particular areas, or to remain as human shields, to restrict their presumed support for adversaries, and/or to force them to cultivate coca. Although guerrillas and paramilitaries were mainly responsible, the public security forces also imposed economic blockades restricting transport of certain goods, limiting the amounts of money or goods that persons could carry, and restricted the movement of people.

The 1997 Law on Internal Displacement, developed in line with the International Guiding Principles on Internal Displacement, required the state to "create policies and adopt measures for displacement prevention, attention [and] protection," but a 2000 presidential decree made protection and assistance for IDPs subject to available funding. The Government mandated Social Solidarity Network to assist IDPs. In February, the Constitutional Court ordered the Government to apply "maximum available resources" to IDP protection, prevention, and assistance. The Office of the UN High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR) noted that although the Government increasingly assisted IDPs during the first three months of their displacement, this came at the expense of durable solutions. Even so, between August 2002 and August 2004, only 50 percent of registered IDPs received emergency aid, and about 80 percent lived in extreme poverty. IDPs depended on international aid for about 60 percent of their basic needs. Only those the Government certified received public healthcare and this did not cover diseases the Government did not consider related to displacement. Certification required identification documents which many IDPs did not have or had to return to unsafe areas to retrieve.

The 1997 Law required the Government to develop special education assistance for IDP children. The Social Solidarity Network reported that 308,000 out of 557,000 registered displaced children had no public education, even though the Ministry of Education reserved 100,000 spots for displaced children for the 2005 academic year. Between August 2002 and August 2004, less than nine percent of displaced households who applied for housing subsidies received them. Although the Government subsidized 70 percent of land such that IDPs must pay only 30 percent of its value, the procedure was slow and few could take advantage of it.

The Government continued to promote short-term return of displaced families, but UNHCR and local non-governmental organizations said that conditions did not meet basic requirements of voluntariness, security, and dignity. The Government also showed little political will to prosecute perpetrators of forced displacement or to effectively protect the abandoned property of IDPs. The Auditor General found that demobilized ex-combatants – many responsible for displacement – received more government aid than IDPs.

Copyright 2005, U.S. Committee for Refugees and Immigrants


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