More than 36% of all forced displacement cases in Colombia take place on the Pacific coast, according to 2012 figures released on Friday by non-government human rights and displacement group Codhes.
Codhes recorded 92,596 cases of forced displacement on the Pacific coast last year and attributed the high level to the region’s strong presence of illegal armed groups, who exploit the strategic location for narco-trafficking and mining.
A total of 863,334 people from the Pacific coast have been forcibly displaced since 1999, but Codhes’ figures show that 2012 was the worst year for displacement in the region, with a 22% increase compared to 2011.
Codhes’ recorded an “alarming” total of 256,590 displacement cases throughout the country last year. Although there were 2,556 fewer cases than in 2011, the figure still puts Colombia as the country with the highest level of internal displacement in the world, as announced by the Internal Displacement Monitoring Centre in April.
The NGO report marked an increase in urban displacement, with 37,938 people forced to leave their homes in Medellin and 31,648 in Bogota. Codhes’ say the rise in displacement in major cities marks a change in the nature of the conflict, with regards to the location and interests of the armed actors.
The report also revealed that 20% (51,938) of all displacement victims in 2012 were Afro-Colombian, whereas 7% (18,154) of victims belonged to indigenous communities.
“The situation for people of African descent is dramatic,”Ariel Palacios, a representative from an Afro-Colombian NGO told newpaper Diario del Huila.
“The state protection policies are not effective and racism in the cities is terrible. This is why the majority [of Afro-Colombians] live in small communities to reduce the severity of the situation,” continued Palacios.
FACT SHEET: Colombia displacement statistics
Since 1985 there have been 5,701,996 recorded displacement cases in Colombia, marking a yearly average of 296,998. In 2012 the victims and land restitution law came into effect as part of an effort to compensate those affected by the armed conflict and redistribute land seized by guerrilla groups. Nevertheless, displacement is an ongoing phenomenon in Colombia that shows no sign of diminishing.