Forgotten exodus: Colombia Displaced

Colombia – May-July 2010

With nearly fifty years of armed conflict, Colombia has the highest number of civil war refugees in the world. During the last ten years of the bloody civil war more than 3 million people have been forced to abandon their lands and to leave their homes due to the violence. Internally displaced people (IDPs) come predominantly from remote rural areas, where most of the battles between illegal armed groups and government forces takes place. Fighting to dominate the drug trade, the violent clashes between leftist guerrillas FARC-ELN and right-wing paramilitary groups (formerly AUC, now “Aguilas Negras”) cause thousands of Colombians to flee every year.

Since the Colombian authorities are not able to provide security and the rule of the law in the distant areas of the country, armed groups come and install the justice of the gun: obedience or death. With no right to take their properties, displaced families usually have a couple of hours to run away. Carrying just personal belongings, they search for a refuge in the outskirts of the big cities like Bogota, Cali or Medellín. The majority of runaways are peasants with no education and no urban experience, thus they inevitably end up in large slums living in wooden shacks with no water supply, no sewers and illegally tapped electricity.

Although the former President Alvaro Uribe increased the military pressure on FARC and the Colombian government created an agency dedicated to displacement (Acción Social), this often overlooked and forgotten humanitarian crisis is unlikely to go away anytime soon. Displaced people living in shanty towns are threaten (by both guerilla and paramilitary urban informers) not to talk about what they witnessed. Others wait many months till the authorities acknowledge their evidence and give them displacement status.

Lost in the chaos of the neverending Colombian conflict, they wake up with constant fear of violence. They live on the run.

Photography by Jan Sochor
Music by Mary Hellen – “Ver”, Obra Del Tiempo (2003)

Photo license

Copyright © 2015 Jan Sochor. No photographs and text may be used or reproduced in any form.