Between “8,000 and 11,000 children have been forcibly recruited” to take part in one of Colombia’s armed groups, the country’s ombudsman said Wednesday.
Civilian organizations and the Ombudsman’s Office added that child recruitment is evident in more than 20 of Colombia’s 32 departments. According to the office, children are forcibly employed as fighters, informants, and sex slaves.
According to the Coalition Against the Involvement of Children and Minors in the Armed Conflict in Colombia (Coalico), the phenomenon of child recruitment has spread to parts of Colombia where there are no clashes between armed actors.
“This phenomenon has been around for a long time in the country, and instead of becoming less of an issue, we see that there continues to be an issue with the systematic recruitment of children by all armed actors, including use by the armed forces as informants,” a spokesman of the NGO told Caracol Radio.
According to a recent government report, 20% of minors that take part in Colombia’s illegal armed groups were forcibly recruited. The remaining 80% join the groups voluntarily.