(Washington, D.C.) February 20, 2013 -- Colombian refugees and internally displaced people are the frequently forgotten victims of a 50-year-long conflict between paramilitaries, guerillas, and the Colombian military and security forces. JRS supports a negotiated resolution of the armed conflict in Colombia and advocates for policies that will lead to a just and sustainable peace.
Violence in some regions of the country has actually worsened during the current peace negotiations as each side attempts to exert their strength, and as paramilitary successor groups become stronger. All sides of the armed conflict should commit to respecting international humanitarian law, particularly during this hopeful peace process. There must be an end to child recruitment, kidnappings, and all acts of sexual violence.
Jesuit Refugee Service programs in Colombia include strengthening human rights protections, psychosocial accompaniment, and community building. JRS pays special attention to the needs of children and young people, as they are frequently targeted by armed groups and forcibly recruited into the conflict.
Violence in Colombia during the last 50 years is the cause of the largest displacement of people in the western hemisphere. The Consultancy for Human Rights and Displacement reports the number of people internally displaced by the Colombian conflict since the mid-1980s alone surpasses five million. In addition, more than 600,000 people have fled Colombia into neighboring countries as refugees.
The beginning of peace talks between the left-wing guerrilla group known as the Revolutionary Armed Forces of Colombia (FARC) signals that an end to generations of conflict may at last be at hand.
"What gives encouragement now is the end of the armed conflict. Peace negotiations will allow for discussions in Colombia about the structural factors underlying the violence, and the necessity to include diverse positions without fear of being criminalized as in the past," said Luis Fernando Gómez, Regional Advocacy coordinator for Jesuit Refugee Service Latin America and Caribbean.
"As long as the war goes on, strengthening a state-of-emergency mind-set, many political decisions regarding the future of Colombia will continue to be made without respect for individual rights," Gómez said.