Violent struggle over illegal mining in Colombia forces hundreds to flee, UN reports

17 March 2011
The displaced found shelter in the run-down city of Buenaventura

At least 800 ethnic Afro-Colombians have had to flee their homes in western Colombia since the start of the month because of a struggle between armed groups in the mineral-rich area to control illegal mining activities, the United Nations refugee agency reported today.

The displaced villagers from the Anchicayá River region have sought shelter in Colombia’s Pacific Ocean port city of Buenaventura, the UN High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR) said in a press release issued in Bogotá, the capital.

UNHCR staff will visit the area in the coming days with Government officials and representatives of non-governmental organizations (NGOs) to gather first-hand information and assess the situation.

The displacement follows an incident on 28 February when members of an illegal armed group stopped a public bus in the area and shot a male villager. A week later, two other bodies were seen floating in the Anchicayá River. The area is rich in mineral resources, including gold.

Some 370 children are among the hundreds of internally displaced persons (IDPs) who have registered with authorities since arriving in Buenaventura, according to UNHCR.

The agency reported that a group of about 200 members of the Embera indigenous community in Colombia’s Chocó department – which is to the north of Buenaventura – have had to flee their homes along the banks of the Pavasa River because of the activities of a separate illegal armed group.


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