The number of people forced from their homes by violence virtually doubled in 2021, according to figures released by the United Nations Office for Humanitarian Affairs (OCHA). Between January and November last year, 72,388 people were victims of forced displacement. Another 57,787 suffered forced confinement, whereby they were prevented or restricted from moving freely around their communities or more widely.
Of those forced to abandon their homes, only around 19,000 had been able to return. The majority of displacement victims have not received any government guarantees about their safe return, while they face a chronic lack of food, healthcare or security. Many had sought shelter from local authorities who were struggling to meet the urgent needs of large numbers of people, including many children. In total, 18,097 families were affected.
The bulk of victims are indigenous and African-Colombian communities in Chocó, western Colombia, while communities have also been driven from their homes in border zones in southern and eastern Colombia. Conflict between rival armed groups and threats towards communities are the main causes of forced displacement, according to the OCHA.
The presence of land mines and threats from armed groups were principal causes in the forced confinement of communities. This has prevented people from working or accessing healthcare and food.
Deteriorating security conditions saw a 198 per cent rise in forced displacement in 2021 compared with the previous year, while the 159 registered incidents of forced displacement represented a 62 per cent increase on 2020.
Colombia has one of the world’s largest populations of victims of forced displacement, with at least six million people having left their homes due to conflict. The vast majority have still not returned, living in poor social conditions, often in makeshift housing, on the peripheries of cities and towns. The enactment of legislation, such as 2011’s Victims and Land Restitution Law, has proven insufficient in dealing with the immense needs of millions of people.