Colombia: UN refugee agency voices concern over rising tide of displaced people

Colombia: UN refugee agency voices concern over rising tide of displaced people

As thousands of Colombians have lost their homes in recent week due to the country's ongoing conflict, the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR) today said it was extremely concerned about their worsening plight and urged all sides to respect the rights of the civilian victims of the fighting.

"UNHCR appeals to all sides to respect the principles of international law and the rights of the civilian victims of the conflict, as well as the security of the humanitarian personnel working on their behalf," spokesman Kris Janowski said at a press briefing in Geneva.

In recent weeks, forced displacement within Colombia has increased significantly as the conflict has intensified, the spokesman said. Thousands of Colombians, the majority of whom are women and children, have become displaced in the last few weeks in a country where the total number of people who have lost their homes since 1995 has been estimated at over two million.

"Most of these people find themselves under extremely dire conditions in a situation of acute vulnerability, after being forced out of their homes by threats from illegal armed groups or by violent clashes between combatants," Mr. Janowski said. "The border provinces of Narino, Norte de Santander and Choco have been particularly affected, as well as Antioquia, but reports of large numbers of people being uprooted by the fighting continue to be received from all over Colombia."

At the same time, security in the border areas of neighbouring countries has been adversely affected by the intensification of the internal conflict in Colombia, Mr. Janowski added, noting that there has been a dramatic increase in the number of violent incidents in the past few weeks, including killings and abductions attributed to illegal armed groups from Colombia in both Venezuela and Ecuador.