Colombia’s Silent Crisis: Forced Displacements and the Fate of the Forgotten
By admin March 9, 2016

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Colombia IDP


Colombia’s long-lasting civil war, between the state and different rebel groups (guerillas), has had drastic effects on the economic, social and political life of Colombians. Internal displacements and forced movements inside the country has been one of the direct consequences of this protracted conflict. At one point, Colombia was recognized to be the home to the world’s second highest number of internally displace people. These displacements happen both in individual cases and as mass displacements. People who are locked in between these conflicts flee violence and usually seek security in the margins of large cities. Many try to stay neutral, but they are usually forced to join a faction that is involved in the conflict. A mass displacement happens when it occurs to more than 50 people (or 10 families) at the same time. These mass displacements often happen in the areas that are controlled by armed groups. These groups, more often than not, decide when and if people can move. They also try to control the movement of the population by threat of violence or the use of land mines.


According to Colombia Humanitarian Bulletin, which is published by the United Nations Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs (OCHA), in 2014 the FARC rebel army, ELN guerilla group, and criminal organizations (identified as BACRIM by the Colombian government) were responsible for 69%, 11%, and 16% respectively. The report also noted that in 2015 a reduction in mass displacements happened due to the peace negotiations between FARC and the Colombian state, changing the mass displacements shares to 37%, 31%, and 13%. Overall, during 2015, approximately 166,000 people were forcibly displaced in Colombia. Although, this number shows a welcomed drop in the number of displaced population, there are other issues that these displacements have entailed. Displacements, in the long term, will play their role in disputes over natural resource extraction, drug routes, and urban territory.


A possible FARC’s demobilization will show its effects on the criminal world inside Colombia. FARC not only controls up to 70% of the country’s coca, but it is also involved in other criminal economies such as contraband, extortion, and illegal mining. These illicit activities produce a revenue of more than half a billion dollars annually. A possible race between new criminal actors will increase turf wars in urban areas, which can result in whether another cycle of displacement or active recruitment of the displaced population in these emerging illicit activities. Moreover, conflicts between different rebel groups and criminal organizations over drug routes and illegal gold mining can unleash other waves of displacements.


Albeit all these discussions over the problem of displacement, it is important to pay attention to the people who are already removed from their land, searching for peace and, probably, new lives in the slums and margins of big cities in Colombia. It is time to ask what is next for the Colombian state after registering all those displaced people who have lost their livelihood and their natural living environment that they once called ‘home’. In a country with a low-capacity state to enforce law, and fundamental problems in a post-FARC peace transitional justice, it is time to ask who will stand by those who were removed by force and violence. How can they reclaim their lives? If this question is ignored, then criminal organizations and illicit market can find their next victims in the very same population.


For more information:

A refugee in their own country: the fate of the Colombian IDPs

Internal displacement decreases dramatically in Colombia

Organized crime in the Americas: what to expect in 2016

Humanitarian Bulletin: Colombia


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