Between 2002 and February 2010, 7,159 child members of terrorist groups have put down their weapons and been reintegrated into society, according to data released by the Centre for Disarmament and the Demobilization and Reintegration Program of the National University.
The ELN and the FARC signed an agreement in 1998 and 1999, respectively, to declare their commitment not to recruit minors under the age of 16 years.
Figures released by NGOs, however, show that children continue to be recruited and remain the most vulnerable victims of war.
In 2009, the national police identified the presence of FARC guerrillas in 26 out of 32 of Colombia’s departments. The ELN is present in 15 departments and criminal gangs can be found in 21 departments.
“Children who refuse to be recruited are killed or forced to move,” a representative of the Committee on the Rights of Children said.
The report “Captive Combatants” revealed that home circumstances minors are one important factor. At least 70% of those children recruited have little opportunity in life. “Many children have no access to land, education or money. One third of the recruited minors had absolutely no prospect for economic or social progress,” the report noted.
Another aspect of concern is the prostitution of girls and minors being used for drug trafficking.