The United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees, Ruud Lubbers, today headed to Colombia in a bid to raise international awareness about the plight of the over 2 million people who have been displaced by the country’s long-running conflict.
Mr. Lubbers, the first UN refugee chief to visit the South American nation, plans to call on donor countries to support Colombia, where this year alone more than 200,000 people have been forced to flee their homes. Tens of thousands more have sought refuge in neighbouring countries, as well as in North America and Europe. In the first six months of this year, some 900 to 1,000 people became internally displaced each day in Colombia.
Following his scheduled arrival in Bogotá this afternoon, Mr. Lubbers is expected to meet President Alvaro Uribe and senior government officials, as well as representatives of some 60 non-governmental organizations (NGOs) working in Colombia, UN agencies, and members of the diplomatic corps. He will also travel to Barrancabermeja to witness first-hand the situation of the displaced.
The agency currently helps internally displaced Colombians by reinforcing the Government’s ability to cope with the crisis and by providing legal assistance to those directly affected. In addition to its branch office in Bogotá, UNHCR has field offices in Apartado, Barrancabermeja and Puerto Asis.