RI launches mission to Venezuela and Colombia

Report
from Refugees International
Published on 09 Jul 2002
Larry Thompson, Refugees International's Director of Advocacy, will visit Venezuela and Colombia to assess the situation of Colombian refugees and displaced persons.
The decades-long civil war among Colombian guerillas, paramilitary groups, narcotics traffickers, and the government has recently gotten worse and hundreds of thousands of Colombians have been expelled from their lands -- or forced to flee for their lives. Some have become refugees to Venezuela, Ecuador, and Panama; others have fled to the cities for safety, where they cluster in shantytowns or wretched new settlements. The humanitarian response to people displaced by violence and conflict in Colombia is hindered by the all-pervasive climate of violence and terror.

Colombia is an extraordinarily complicated humanitarian emergency for which a solution is not in sight. Colombia, with a population of forty million people, is the fourth largest country in Latin America. It is a middle-income country with democratic institutions and a strong civil society, but numerous peace efforts over the years have ended in failure. A newly elected government will take office in August and promises a hard line against Communist guerillas. Right wing paramilitary groups, however, are probably responsible for much of the violence and most of the newly displaced persons.

This will be RI's first mission to Venezuela and Colombia. We will meet with refugees, displaced persons, international aid, UN, and non-governmental organizations to learn about the humanitarian situation of refugees in Venezuela and displaced persons in Colombia. We will evaluate international aid efforts to help the refugees and displaced persons and suggest policies and programs to ease their plight. Our concern is prompted by the deteriorating humanitarian situation that could lead to even greater numbers of Colombian refugees and displaced persons.

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