Colombia continues to have the world’s largest internally displaced population, according to the Internal Displacement Monitoring Center (IDMC), with hundreds of thousands displaced in 2012 by the country’s internal conflict and the activities of organized crime groups.
By the end of 2012, the Colombian government had registered 4.9 million people as displaced, of which 230,000 were displaced that year. However, the IDMC report that the true figure is much higher due to a backlog in registering people for the Victims and Land Restitution Law and because the government does not record people displaced by the paramilitary successor groups known as the BACRIM (“bandas criminales” or criminal bands).
The report identifies fighting between the security forces and guerrilla groups, urban conflicts between competing gangs and trafficking organizations, threats against communities and community leaders, forced recruitment and pressure to take part in illegal mining as the main drivers of displacement.
According to the UNHCR estimates cited, there were 137 mass displacements in 2012 — twice as many as in 2011 — in which over 9,000 families were forced out of their homes. Most of the mass displacements were caused by BACRIM groups.
There was also a surge in intra-urban displacement, as people were forced to flee their homes in cities such as Medellin and Buenaventura because of rising violence linked to turf wars between criminal groups.
Displacement was highest in the departments of Antioquia, Nariño, Cauca, Valle del Cauca, and Córdoba.
The IDMC report highlights how Colombia’s conflict continues to cause mass misery in rural areas despite the weakening of the guerrillas in recent years and the peace talks currently underway in Cuba.
However, it also highlights how much of internal displacement in Colombia is not directly related to the conflict but to organized crime and the BACRIM, underlining how displacement will not cease to be an issue if the conflict comes to an end.