Formal name: Republic of Colombia (República de Colombia).
Estimated population: 41,008,227 (July 2002 est)
Most of those people displaced in Colombia are forced to flee as a result of long-running armed conflict and political violence. Colombia has the highest rate of forced migration in the Western Hemisphere and one of the highest in the world. It also has the highest murder rate in the world. This combination of factors suggests that Colombia might present the worst humanitarian crisis in the hemisphere. Criminal and political violence are part of everyday life in Colombia. Most forced migration is a consequence of the country's four-decade-long internal armed conflict, the longest running in Latin America. This 'dirty war' is a complex conflict fought primarily between left-wing guerrillas and Colombian armed forces and right-wing paramilitaries, but also involving drug traffickers, landowners, and other legal and illegal interests. For a number of reasons, the vast majority of those forced to flee do not cross borders but become internally displaced persons (IDPs) within Colombia. The total number of IDPs in the country varies between government estimates of around 525,000 and those of some non-governmental organizations (NGOs), which put the figure at over 2 million. According to human rights groups, some 1.9 million people were displaced between 1985 and 2000, with some 342,000 persons displaced in 2001 alone. Colombians are also increasingly fleeing across borders, most notably to Costa Rica and Ecuador. The conflict has intensified and expanded during 2001 and 2002 and the number of IDPs continues to grow dramatically, with no solution in sight.
During the 1990s there are estimated to have been over 300,000 violent deaths in Colombia, of which some 30,000 were a result of political violence. But of these politically motivated killings, on average only 1,000 of the victims each year were combatants, compared with 2,000-3,000 civilians. Civilians are regularly killed or forced to flee, often entire communities at a time. Increasingly, IDPs are moving to the cities or to shanty towns nearby. These shanty towns and other poor urban areas are also populated by Colombians who have been forced to migrate in significant numbers as a result of environmental degradation and disasters (such as earthquakes), illicit crop eradication programmes, development initiatives (such as dams), and to escape from desperate poverty.
- CIA World Factbook 2002 http://www.cia.gov/cia/publications/factbook/geos/co.html
- CNN In-depth Archive http://www.cnn.com/SPECIALS/2000/colombia.noframes/story/statistics
- Conflict and Ethicity in Colombia, INCORE http://www.incore.ulst.ac.uk/cds/countries/colombia.html
- Library of Congress Country Studies http://lcweb2.loc.gov/frd/cs/cotoc.html