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Colombia: Thousands forced to flee – ICRC report

29-03-2007 News Release 07/38

Geneva (ICRC) – Colombia's internal armed conflict is one of the longest-running in modern history and continues to take a heavy toll on the country's civilian population.

" In 2006 once again, thousands were forced to flee their homes as a result of pressure to participate in hostilities, death threats, killing of family members and the danger of being caught in crossfire, " says Barbara Hintermann, head of the delegation in Colombia of the International Committee of the Red Cross (ICRC). " We are deeply concerned about the growing plight of civilians in this conflict. "

In a report on its work in Colombia in 2006, presented in Bogotá and Geneva on 29 March, the ICRC describes how thousands of civilians are affected by continuous violations of humanitarian law such as displacement, disappearances, armed attacks and hostage-taking.

Colombia has one of the largest populations of displaced people in the world. The ICRC reports that the number of displaced gradually rose in the course of 2006. (It assisted over 60,000 displaced people last year, 21.5% more than in 2005.) Many people driven from their homes by the conflict flee to poor areas of Colombia's largest cities, where they find it hard to climb out of poverty. Most are too fearful ever to return to their places of origin. Many of displaced Colombians are of African and Amerindian descent, over half are under the age of 18, and nearly a quarter of displaced families are headed by women.

The ICRC started working in Colombia in 1969 by visiting security detainees. Ten years ago, the organization launched programmes to help displaced people both through material aid and by promoting greater respect for international humanitarian law. To date it has assisted over one million displaced people.

The humanitarian situation in 2006 prompted the organization to step up its activities. As a result, its 2007 budget for Colombia rose by 15% (from 24.7 million Swiss francs in 2006 to 28.5 million francs for this year). The ICRC currently has 55 expatriates and 235 locally recruited staff in the country.

See also 2006 ICRC activity report for Colombia  
For more information, please contact:
  Yves Heller, ICRC Bogotá, tel +41 79 267 7323
  Murielle Gras, ICRC Geneva, tel +41 79 217 32 24
  Carlos Ríos, ICRC Bogotá, tel +57 3 311 491 0775