9 Facts About IDPs in Colombia
For more than 50 years, Colombia grappled with a civil war that left more than 220,000 dead and millions displaced. The protracted issue of Internally Displaced Persons (IDPs) continues in the country despite the 2016 Peace Accord between the Colombian government and the Revolutionary Armed Forces of Colombia (FARC) in rural Colombia. Here are nine facts about IDPs in Colombia.

9 Facts About IDPs in Colombia

  1. In 2019, there were approximately eight million IDPs in Colombia. This does not include the additional 1.7 million Venezuelan refugees in the country.
  2. There are still citizens being displaced since the peace agreement in 2016. As of 2019, the number of people of concern in Colombia has increased by 13%.
  3. The government lacks control of many rural regions of Colombia. Although FARC largely demobilized in 2016, there are other armed groups still controlling large swaths of the country that are perpetuating the IDP crisis. These groups are funded by the lucrative cocaine trade, which continues to thrive in unstable regions.
  4. Environmental impacts also play a role in the IDP situation. Colombia has the fourth-highest rate of deforestation in the world, a majority of which occurs in areas of origin for IDPs. Criminal elements and the government share responsibility for environmental degradation.
  5. Human rights activists are at risk. Since the 2016 Peace Accord, more than 400 human rights activists and environmental defenders have been killed in Colombia, many of which were from indigenous communities. These advocates are crucial in establishing crop substitution programs and helping resettle and empower IDPs.
  6. For IDPs living in urban areas, UNHCR and national NGOs have implemented the legalization of informal settlements. This has helped provide better access to government services, energy and the sewage system, along with lessening the stigma of not having ownership titles for housing. This UNHCR project has been ongoing since 2015 and has benefitted more than 24,000 IDPs.
  7. The Opción Legal NGO assists IDPs with reintegration into rural communities through legal means. Reintegration was included in the 2016 peace agreement but it is still in need of better implementation. With the help of funding from UNHCR, Opción Legal operates programs encouraging and strengthening political participation for IDPs. This NGO has assisted IDP populations in regions like Atlántico and Bolívar.
  8.  The Korea International Cooperation Agency (KOICA) is supporting the implementation of the peace agreement. The agency is seeking out durable solutions to conflict, such as education and job training. The programs have benefitted more than 10,000 Colombians directly and 235,000 indirectly.
  9. USAID is working to build institutional trust in regions with high levels of IDPs. Vulnerable populations in addition to IDPs, such as women, community leaders, migrants and ethnic minorities, are all considered crucial populations for funding and empowerment. USAID also has a strategy to build capacity for youth leaders, which is viewed as a possible long-term solution for peace and self-reliance.

Looking Forward

The 2016 Peace Accord was a big step in working to improve livelihoods for millions of IDPs in Colombia. Although many challenges remain in implementation, the legal frameworks are in place for the country to continue toward its ultimate goals of peace and stability.

– Matthew Brown
Photo: Flickr

Colombian Refugees

For over 50 years, guerilla soldiers, paramilitaries, drug cartels and the government’s armed forces have been fighting in Colombia creating waves of refugees. Though each group has different motivations, most are fighting to gain power and influence.

This internal fighting in Colombia has led to the displacement of many individuals across the country. Here are 10 facts about Colombian refugees.

  1. Colombia has the second-highest number of internally displaced persons in the world. Colombia has a staggering population of over 6 million internally displaced persons. The Syrian Arab Republic is the only other country with a higher population with 7.6 million internally displaced persons.
  2. Children are at high risk for displacement and militant group recruitment. Unfortunately, the same laws that let Colombian refugees leave the country’s borders allow militant groups to do the same. Several of these groups are able to follow refugees out of the country and often take children as recruits for their cause.
  3. Indigenous populations and Afro-Colombians are also at-risk. Though they only make up a small proportion of the total Colombian population (3.4 percent), an estimated eight percent of Colombia’s internally displaced persons are of the indigenous population. Afro-Colombians and indigenous Colombians tend to live in the rural areas of Colombia where there is little assistance.
  4. About 250,000 Colombian refugees live in Ecuador. Though many Colombians traveled to Ecuador, only 15,000 have been recognized as refugees by the country. This means only 15,000 Colombians receive government assistance and legal residence permits. Colombian refugees are often discriminated against and struggle to compete for jobs in Ecuador.
  5. Colombian refugees often travel to Panama and Venezuela seeking asylum. In Panama, Colombian refugees are often forced to live in the jungle without basic provisions that would usually accompany refugees in such living environments, according to Refugee Counsel USA. In Venezuela, Colombian refugees tend to have trouble accessing the job market due to a poor refugee status determination system. They also have very limited access to schools and health systems.
  6. Refugee women tend to have trouble finding jobs once displaced. Due to an inability to access the job market, many Colombian refugee women are forced to work on the streets and in brothels. For many, this is the only way they can get money to support their children.
  7. Some refugees are receiving legal support. The United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR) and the Norweigan Refugee Council (NRC) have provided legal clinics that have helped 14,300 internally displaced persons.
  8. Long-term solutions are being established. The UNHCR has changed its focus from providing immediate service to creating long-term solutions for Colombian refugees. By doing so, the organization hopes to create lasting change for those who need it most.
  9. Their communities are being recognized. Recently, a long-standing refugee community was finally recognized by the city of Cúcuta, Colombia. In its recognition, the community gained access to many of the cities services.
  10. Action is being taken by some. The UNHCR recently established the Gender-Based Violence Information Management System (GBVIMS). In doing so, the organization is helping fight sexual and gender-based violence toward refugees in the countries it operates, including Columbia.

Though many of these facts about Colombian refugees may be discouraging, the refugees have not been forgotten. Organizations are working to help them in their length endeavor, unfortunately, when a crisis is so large, it takes a lot of time and resources in order to effect change.

Weston Northrop

Photo: Flickr