Colombia has the highest level of internal displacement in the world, according to latest figures released by the global Internal Displacement Monitoring Centre (IDMC).
In 2012, 230,000 people were registered as newly displaced and the cumulative figure is estimated at between 4.9 – 5.5 million, representing 10.3 – 11.6% of Colombia’s population. The IDMC’s figures are based on government records as well as results from the Colombian human rights and displacement consultancy CODHES.
The Colombian government gave a cumulative figure of 4.9 million for 2012, which still has to be clarified and CODHES have not yet processed their data for 2012. 5.5 million was the figure given by CODHES for 2011. Both figures are cumulative and do not take possible cases of return or resettlement into account.
In addition, the government faced significant challenges in updating its registry for internally displaced persons (IDPs). In particular, registration requests for the government’s victim’s registry, created in 2011 as part of the Victims and Land Restitution Law which aims to redress the rights of displaced persons, increased significantly, resulting in a vast backlog waiting to be evaluated.
Nevertheless, Claire Spurrel, head of communications at IDMC, confirmed that even with incomplete data, Colombia still has the world’s highest displacement levels, based on provisional statistics and information from previous years. Spurrel said that the IDMC are not reporting a significant change in the level of displacement in 2012 compared with 2011.
According to the IDMC report, the Victims and Land Restitution Law “has been hampered by a lack of financial resources and delays in the appointment of essential staff.” Additionally, the report said that attempts to provide land restitution to victims has “faced violent resistance,” with “more than 700 leaders claiming their land rights [having] received death threats.” A recent wave of land activist murders prompted condemnation from the United Nations, and also led to the creation of a police division devoted to tracking down those responsible.
The majority of Colombia’s displacement is caused by armed conflict and criminal violence, however 60,000 were reportedly displaced by flooding during Colombia’s rainy season.
As in previous years, most displaced people fled from rural areas to urban areas, however the IDMC also recorded an increase in urban displacement, with a reported 8,800 people forced to flee Colombian cities amid an increase in violence and human rights abuses.