<!-- IMAGE -->
Years of insurgency and narcoterrorism have placed Colombia among the countries with the highest numbers of Internally Displaced Persons, or IDPs. Threatened by the Revolutionary Armed Forces of Colombia terrorist group, other illegal armed groups, criminal gangs and drug traffickers, people continue to be driven from their homes and forced to abandon their lands and livelihoods.
According to the Consultancy for Human Rights and Displacement, a Colombian non-governmental organization, an estimated 4.6 million people have been forced to leave their homes since 1985. The Colombian government places the number at 3.1 million IDPs since its National Registry was launched in 2000.
While the Colombian government believes there is fraud in the registration system, it also acknowledges there is a high rate of under-registration. There are also over 400,000 Colombians who have fled across borders seeking refuge and asylum in Ecuador, Costa Rica, Panama, and Venezuela.
Many IDPs live below the poverty line, lack food security and dwell in homes that fall below minimum construction standards. The U.N. High Commissioner for Refugees reports that one of every two displaced persons in Colombia is unemployed.
Displaced women, Afro-Colombians, and the indigenous are particularly vulnerable to violence, sexual assault, unemployment, and discrimination.
In response, the United States Government has requested more than $38 million from Congress for 2010 for refugee and displaced persons assistance programs in the Western Hemisphere, much of which will be used in Colombia or for assistance to Colombian refugees in the region. An additional $35 million has been requested for bilateral U.S. Agency for International Development programs in Colombia benefitting IDPs.
The U.S. is also committed to continuing to support the Colombian government in its fight against illegal armed groups and drug traffickers to end violence so that Internally Displaced Persons and other vulnerable populations in Colombia can safely return home, and the Colombian people can live their lives in peace and prosperity. The United States, as U.S. Secretary of State Hillary Rodham Clinton said, pledges “to stand with them and help them build safe and fulfilling lives—not on the outskirts of society, but in the heart of it.”