By Vera Samudio
Forced displacement is a major consequence of the Colombian armed conflict. Between 1985 and November 2014, there were more than 7 million victims of the armed conflict, and of these the government lists 6,044,151 as “displaced persons.” These figures frame the peace talks that have been held between the Government of Colombia and the FARC-EP (the Revolutionary Forces of Colombia–People’s Army) for the past two years in Havana, Cuba. Despite reaching significant preliminary agreements, these talks have been held in the midst of ongoing hostilities.
The fighting between Colombia’s armed forces and the insurgents, and the presence of paramilitaries in vast areas of the country, are the main sources of forced displacement today. Especially affected areas include Chocó, Caquetá, Putumayo, Nari├▒o and Valle del Cauca, and badly impacted populations include women, children, people of African descent and indigenous communities.
Jesuit Refugee Service (JRS) Colombia is present in four regions – Valle del Cauca, Nari├▒o, Norte de Santander and Magdalena Medio – providing humanitarian support to victims and creating conditions conducive to the eventual implementation of the peace accords.
The JRS team in Magdalena Medio, which CJI supports, has been accompanying the communities of Tiquisio, Norosí and Rio Viejo – traditionally a mining region, but historically neglected and now militarized by the guerrilla armies of “Clan ├Üsuga,” better known as the “Urabe├▒os.” In this region, the poverty of the people, their subjugation by paramilitaries through blockages, extortion and confinement, the contamination of water sources due to improper gold mining practices, and the forced recruitment of children and youth, stand in contrast to the organizational capacity of the population and the assiduous leadership of women. JRS – the only humanitarian organization in this area – hopes to continue its support, exposing human rights violations that affect the communities and helping to defend their rights, thereby preventing further forced displacement.
This article by Vera Samudio originally appeared in the Winter 2015 issue of CJI’s Mission News. Vera Samudio is the National Coordinator of Advocacy of JRS–Colombia.