Colombia + 1 more

ACAPS Briefing Note: Colombia - Expanding displacement and protection crisis (01 March 2018)


Following the signing of the peace agreement between the Government and the FARC in 2016, there has been a reshuffling of illegal armed groups such as the ELN and EPL, with an escalation of fighting for the control of land and illicit crop production in areas vacated by FARC. Over 30,000 people were displaced in mass displacements in 2018, double the amount recorded in 2017. Attacks against human rights activists and community leaders also increased in 2018. The Venezuelan refugee crisis, with over 1 million Venezuelans now living in Colombia, is aggravating the overall humanitarian situation. The convergence of both crises is particularly severe in the Catatumbo region, Norte de Santander, where the presence of armed groups is causing displacement and increasing protection needs for Venezuelan migrants.

Key figures

+30,000 New IDPs in 2018 (mass displacements)

+1,600 attacks against civilians in 2018

+1 million people with access and mobility constraints

Crisis impact

Conflict dynamics after the peace agreement

Despite the signing of the peace agreement between the Colombian government and FARC in 2016, other armed groups as well as dissidents of FARC have not yet put down arms. A reconfiguration of armed groups in different regions, like the Pacific and Norte de Santander, has been ongoing since 2016, when the former FARC group ceased its activities and signed a peace deal with the government. All throughout 2018 armed groups such as the National Liberation Army (ELN), Popular Liberation Army (EPL), dissident groups of FARC and Autodefensas Geitanistas de Colombia (AGC) among others, have been fighting with the government and among themselves to gain control of the territories previously controlled by FARC, especially in the departments of Nariño,
Cauca, Valle del Cauca, Chocó, Antioquia and Norte de Santander. The Frente Primero dissident group from FARC and the ELN in Arauca department have recently revitalised an old alliance, through a pact of no aggression and land division for the control of illegal economies, including extortion and smuggling activities. People living in the border regions between Colombia and Venezuela are further affected by another illegal armed group called Colectivo de Seguridad Fronteriza (Border Security Collective); military investigations have shown how this group has managed to coexist along with different armed groups such as ELN, EPL, FBL and paramilitary groups. (El Colombiano 05/12/2018)
These groups operate and infiltrate rural communities through radio, magazines, and direct recruitment of children. At the border, vulnerable migrants from Venezuela are likely to fall victim of armed groups. People living at the border between Colombia and Ecuador are also threatened by the presence of the Frente Oliver Sinisterra, another FARC dissident group, under the lead of alias ‘Guacho’, who operates in both countries for the control of narco-traffic. (El Colombiano 05/12/2018) Tumaco in Nariño has been particularly affected by this ongoing new configuration of forces, with a 50% increase in murder rates in 2018, and fourfold the national rate in 2017. Sexual abuses are also particularly high in Tumaco compared with other areas. (HRW 13/12/2018)