Colombia’s guerrilla groups have recruited over a thousand child soldiers over the last two years, a subsidiary of the country’s Defense Ministry said Thursday.
The Group for Humanitarian Attention of Demobilized People (GAHD), working with the Colombian Ministry of Defense, released a report stating that Colombia’s largest guerrilla group, the FARC, along with the smaller ELN have recruited 1,387 children in the past two years.
Child recruitment hotspots
Within this figure the reported estimated are that 1,255 were recruited by the FARC and 132 by the ELN.
The Colombian regions with most reports of child recruitment are Putumayo and Nariño which border Ecuador, and Huila and Meta, central Colombia. According to the report there are clear cases of a “violation of the human rights of children and adolescents” in these areas.
The report did however also state that, between January 2002 and March 2013, 3,870 children and young people, roughly 30% of which were girls, deserted their guerrilla ranks.
The report was released as part of the “We Have a Plan” initiative by the Ministry of Defense which is working in both preventing children and young people from being recruited into guerrilla groups as well as helping them to escape if they do become involved.
The recruitment of child soldiers has been a humanitarian issue throughout the 50 years of armed conflict between Colombia’s armed guerrilla groups and the government with many international bodies working to try and end the practice.
For example, the Colombian Family Welfare Institute (ICBF) released a statement in February calling on the FARC and other armed groups “to immediately return the recruited children and adolescents, to restore their family relationships and enable them to return to their homes.”
The UN also released a report in 2012 which stated that 14,000 children were involved in the armed conflict and implored the guerrilla groups to stop recruiting child soldiers of which the girls were often used at “brides” suffering rape, forced abortion and prostitution.
The FARC and the Colombian government are currently engaged in peace talks in Cuba.
- Farc y ELN reclutaron 1.387 niños en dos últimos años (El Espectador)
- Un total de 3.870 niños y adolescentes han sido rescatados de la guerra (Ministry of Defense)
- Hay 14.000 niños soldado en Colombia (El Espectador)
- Las FARC y el ELN reclutaron 1.387 niños en dos últimos años (W Radio)
- Mesa Redonda: menores soldado en Colombia (Amnesty International)
- Entre 8.000 y 11.000 niños, soldados de la guerrilla (Colombian National Army)