More than 600 people near Colombia’s pacific coast have fled their homes to avoid fighting between army and paramilitary troops, an indigenous rights group said Friday.
Most of the displaced members of the Embera Chami indigenous group to arrive in the town of Santa Cecilia in western Colombia were minors, according to the Colombian newsprogram CM&.
The displaced said they had already left two rural villages in the department of Riseralda due to clashes between government and paramilitary forces, Laurentillo Murillo, the mayor of Santa Cecilia, told CM&. Santa Cecilia was providing food and shelter for the recently displaced, he added.
A spokesman for the Traditional Indigenous Authority of Riseralda, which monitors indigenous rights in the area, told Colombia Reports that the government of Santa Cecelia “has helped us a lot with our food and health concerns. But we are waiting for a solution.”
A solution may be a long way off. According the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR), Afro-Colombian and indigenous groups like the Embera Chami, who live in rural areas along the pacific coast and in central Colombia, have been the hardest hit by Colombia’s ongoing displacement crisis. Some 3.6 million Colombians have been internally displaced since 1997, the UNHCR estimated.
Still more displaced people have been delayed en route to Santa Cecilia by road closures and the alleged movement of troops, said the spokesman, who asked to remain anonymous for security reasons.
Though he had received numerous reports of conflict from indigenous sources, the spokesman said he had yet to receive an official confirmation of the fighting from the Colombian government.