Thursday, February 17, 2011

Colombia, the world leader in displacement from political violence

More people are forced to flee their homes in Colombia than any other nation in the world. According to the United Nations refugee agency, Colombia has more displaced people than Sudan, Iraq and Afghanistan. Most of the forced displacement occurred during a decades old political armed conflict.

Most of the people who were displaced in Colombia had their own farms and comfortable lifestyles. Once they are forced out they are introduced to poverty, with over 70 percent living below the poverty line.

From the Inter Press Service, writer Helda Martínez gives us some more statistics of the displaced within Colombia.

Some 5.2 million people were displaced from rural areas of this South American country between 1985 and 2010, according to a report released Wednesday by the Consultancy on Human Rights and Displacement (CODHES).

This figure confirms that Colombia still heads the list of countries with the greatest number of people forced to flee their homes by political violence, as indicated in 2009 by the UNHCR, the United Nations refugee agency.

The study "Consolidation of What? Report on Displacement, Armed Conflict and Human Rights in Colombia in 2010" was completed in the final stretch of the government of Álvaro Uribe (2002-2010), the authors say.

"Unlike his predecessor, President (Juan Manuel) Santos is fomenting social and political dialogue, including the question of peace on his agenda, and vindicating the victims," they stress.

"It is early to know whether the shift will be permanent," but the hope is to achieve "a non-military solution to the conflict that has been bleeding this country dry" since the early 1960s, the report says.

In the last 25 years, the war has forced "11.4 percent of the population to change their residence, because their lives, physical integrity or freedom were threatened," says the 140-page report, published in Spanish.

Half of the total population of internally displaced persons fled their homes during Uribe's two four-year terms in office.

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