90% of people displaced by violence in Colombia do not want to return to their homelands, claims a report presented by UNHCR’s representative in Colombia.
Jean-Nöel Wetterwald, the UN High Commissioner for Refugees’ representative in Colombia, concluded his term of office with a report which stated that only 10% of Colombians displaced by conflict have any serious desire to return to their homelands.
The expansion of the country’s armed conflict to areas where the state has less presence is one reason for the forced uprooting of civilians – most prevalent in regions such as Nariño, Choco, Arauca, Antioquia and Tolima.
Wetterwald said in his report that one of the biggest challenges faced by the state and by refugees is the reclamation of some 4 to 6 million hectares of land which have been lost through forced displacement.
The presence of land mines in rural regions and the practice of forced recruitment into illegal group are both worsening, and the report stresses the worrying fact that of the 3 to 4 million refugees in the country, between 30 and 40% are underage, reported El Espectador Friday.
According to Wetterwald social aid is encouraging people to return home, with refugees returning to some 52 municipalities in the last year, but the report highlighted problems such as the presence of land mines, the lack of legal security and reports of new threats made against families once they had recovered their lands. In addition, the report expressed concern about the killings of leaders of displaced communities.
UNHCR has helped the Colombian authorities to design public policies, raise general awareness of the problem of displacement, and helped to draft the 1190 Act of 2008, which established mechanisms of coordination between Colombia’s central government and its regional counterparts.
Wetterwald’s report concluded that 3,200,000 displaced people have been protected through the government’s social action, which since 2008 has allocated US$500 million to US$750 million to the care of this sector of the country’s population.