Forced displacement

More than 8.4 million people have been forcibly displaced in Colombia since the beginning of the country’s armed conflict, according to the government.

In 2022, more than 180,000 people were forcibly displaced, mainly from west and the northeast of the country.

A recent resurgence in forced displacement appears to be caused by illegal armed groups that surged after the demobilization and disarmament of the now-defunct guerrilla group FARC in 2017.

Forced displacement over time

The FARC’s decades-long insurgency has historically caused forced displacement, particularly of wealthy landowners or perceived enemies of the guerrillas.

Forced displacement didn’t become a major issue until paramilitary groups joined the security forces’ counterinsurgency offensive against the FARC in the 1990’s, however.

Only in a minority of cases, victims were forcibly displaced by combat. The vast majority fled their lands because they were being threatened by one of the illegal armed groups.

Forced displacement per year

Almost one in every five victims of forced displacement is from Antioquia, the paramilitaries’ native province where more than 1.5 million people lost their home between 1985 and 2018.

Forced displacement per province

The number of victims of displacement from Choco is the equivalent to 90% of the total number of inhabitants of the western province.

More than two thirds of Choco’s current inhabitants are a victim of the armed conflict, mainly because of forced displacement that forced many of its inhabitants to cities like Bogota and Medellin.

Intensity of forced displacement

How people were displaced

Between 1985 and 2004, farmers abandoned 80,000 square kilometers of land, the equivalent of Austria, according to the Truth Commission.

This was largely due to the so-called “Paramilitary Project,” a terror campaign that was carried out by paramilitary organization AUC between 1997 and 2003 and sought the mass dispossession of land to benefit the AUC’s allies in the private sector and government.

Additionally, the military and the paramilitaries’ displaced people in order to isolate the FARC from civilian communities.

Reasons of forced displacement during Paramilitary Project

The military, which collaborated with the AUC in many parts of the country, became a more prominent actor after the election of former President Alvaro Uribe, one of the paramilitary groups’ main promoters, in 2002.

Reasons for displacement

Forced displacement began to drop after the demobilization and disarmament of the AUC and the revelation of ties between the paramilitaries, regional elites and the military between 2006 and 2009..

The 2010 election of former President Juan Manuel Santos changed the dynamics .

In 2011, Congress passed the Victims and Land Restitution Law, which made it considerably more easy for victims to register and demand the restitution of land that had been dispossessed.

For the first time in the history of the armed conflict, the Victims Law allowed scholars to reveal the reasons behind the mass displacement and victims were allowed to reclaim land that in many cases had been sold to former AUC associates.

A 2016 peace deal with FARC guerrillas gave victims and authorities even more tools to combat forced displacement and land dispossession in particular.

The peace process allowed forced displacement to drop to a record low in 2019.

Forced displacement began to rise again in 2020, mainly because of illegal armed groups that vying for control over control Colombia’s illegal economy, which once financed the demobilized guerrillas’ attempt to overthrow the State.

Armed actors behind forced displacement in 2020



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