Colombia continues to be the country with most internally displaced people in the world with 6.9 million uprooted citizens and counting, according to the United Nations refugee agency.
According to the UN’s refugee agency UNHCR, last year alone 113,700 new displaced victims were registered while “few internally displaced return to their place of residence” in spite of government programs in place to support this.
Countries with largest displaced population
Colombia – 6.9 million
Syria – 6.6 million
Iraq – 4.4 million
The displacement is mainly caused by ongoing clashes between the military, leftist guerrilla groups and right-wing paramilitary successor groups.
However, many of Colombia’s internally displaced have seen their lands end up in the hands of land thieves or third parties who seek territorial benefit from the displacement of small farmers.
According to the UNHCR, Colombia is also the world’s 10th largest origin country of refugees seeking peace abroad.
The agency estimated some 340,000 Colombians lived abroad, mainly in neighboring countries like Ecuador and Venezuela.
Of these refugees, 1,072 returned to Colombia in 2015. The UN reported not one displaced person’s returned home.
Colombia’s internally displaced population, 13% of the country’s entire population, has accumulated during decades of political violence, drug trafficking violence and widespread land theft.
Most displaced were forced to leave their home after 1995, when paramilitary organization AUC embarked on a major anti-guerrilla offensive.
However, also after the AUC formally demobilized between 2003 and 2006 displacement remained high.
Since 2010, the year current President Juan Manuel Santos came into office, the number of annually displaced persons began to go down from 280,000 to 113,700 last year.
Displacement in Colombia since 1985
Since 2011, Colombia has a policy that seeks the return of displaced persons to their homes. However, especially in the cases of land theft, this has proven difficult.
Additional turf wars between Marxist rebel groups FARC and ELN on one side, and the military and AUC successor group “Los Urabeños” on the other, continue to impede the safe return of many of the displaced.