Catholic Peacebuilding Network

Enhancing the study and practice of Catholic peacebuilding

Refugees and Displaced

Fifty years of conflict is the major cause of internal displacement in Colombia. Colombia is estimated to have the world’s second largest number of Internally Displaced Persons (IDPs) after Sudan. In fact, Colombia has the highest number of IDPs and is considered the greatest humanitarian crisis in the Western Hemisphere (UNHCR, 2006). Estimates of the total displaced range from 2 million to 3.8 million, representing 5% to 8% of Colombia’s total population. On average, over 220,000 people continue to be displaced each year (U.S. Department of State, 2008).

In order to escape the violence, nearly 500,000 displaced Colombians have relocated to other countries in the region. Others have found asylum in Europe and the United States (UNHCR REPORT). However, the poorest communities have no option other than fleeing to the capital or other major cities nearby where it is assumed there will be greater security. The situation of impoverished rural communities, indigenous groups, and Afro-Colombian communities is dire and difficult. Indigenous and Afro-Colombian peoples comprise one-third of all internally displaced people in Colombia (U.S. Department of State, 2008). Many now reside in the capital, where they have scarce protection by the state, which has had trouble dealing with this massive influx of people. As a result, a severe humanitarian crisis is degrading the cultural and social traditions of these unique Colombian populations.

Gaviria Henao, Mons. Hector. Lessons Learned in Peabuilding in Colombia: Reflections from the Perspective of the Social Ministry/Caritas Paper presented at the Fourth Annual International CPN Conference, June 24-29, in Bogotá, Colombia, 2007
Gaviria Henao, Mons. Hector. 2009. Colombia: Building Peace in a Time of War,* edited by Virginia M. Bouvier. Washington D.C. United States Institute of Peace Press.
The Office of the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR). The State of the World’s Refugees: Human Displacement in the New Millennium. Oxford: Oxford University Press, 2006.
United States Department of State, 2008 Human Rights Reports: Colombia, Washington, DC: Bureau of Democracy, Human Rights and Labor, February 2009.