The United Nations has criticized Colombia’s efforts to curb displacement and help refugees. The country currently has more than 6.4 million displaced, the highest number in the world after Syria.
Colombia continues to top the UN High Commission of Refugees report of displaced, exceeded only by Syria which has accumulated 12 million displaced since rebel groups began fighting the regime of Bashar al-Assad in 2011.
The UNHCR’s annual Global Trends report measures the movement of refugees, asylum seekers, internally displaced persons (IDPs) and “others of concern” as a result of war, conflict and persecution.
Colombia’s most active armed groups
Over the year 360,300 refugees reportedly fled largely to neighboring countries, with 173,600 seeking refuge in Venezuela and 122,200 in Ecuador. Colombia’s government statistics show of the 6.4 million refugees, 94% are IDPs, 137,000 of whom were displaced in 2014.
The huge number of displaced in Colombia is the result of a 51-year-long armed conflict between the state and leftist rebel groups like the FARC and ELN, pro-government paramilitary groups and some of history’s deadliest drug trafficking organizations.
UNHCR Colombia Representative Martin Gottwald stressed that the responsibility for the displacement was shared by a wide range of violent actors.
“Today 40% of all human rights violations are being caused by new irregular groups” like the Urabeños and Aguilas Negras that were formed from the AUC while the paramilitary organization was formally in a process of demobilization between 2003 and 2006.
Gottwald added that the displacement figure is very likely to be underestimated claiming that in many cases armed groups threaten the lives of those who report their situation to authorities.
The representative called for action, asking for the implementation of policy and integral strategy, stating that “the government has not done enough to integrate them into society.”
Colombia’s recently approved National Plan of Development focuses on the displaced in rural areas where guerrillas operate, however is it reported that over half of displacements occur in marginalized suburbs of cities controlled urban militias, in some cases aligned with nationally operating paramilitary groups.
Colombia’s 6.4 million displaced makes up 96% of the total displaced across the entirety of Latin America and Caribbean, 91% of these individuals being IDPs.
Global figures show 59.5 million were forcibly displaced by the end of 2014, this is a sharp increase of 8.3 million in a year (up 16%), the largest annual increase record. 42,500 people became refugees, asylum seekers or internally displaced every day and shockingly 1 in 122 humans is now a refugee, internally displaced or seeking asylum.
A few hours after releasing the report UN High Commissioner for Refugees Antonio Guterres warned that humanitarian organization are not able to “clean up the mess” left by armed conflict due to a chronic lack of funds.
“UN agencies, NGOs, the Red Cross — we no longer have the capacities and the resources to respond to such a dramatic increase in humanitarian needs.”
Global Trends Report 2014 (United Nations High Commission for Refugees)