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More than 800 Afro-Colombians flee to Colombia's main Pacific port

News Stories, 17 March 2011

© UNHCR/B.Heger
The displaced found shelter in the run-down city of Buenaventura, Colombia's most important Pacific Ocean port.

BOGOTÁ, Colombia, March 17 (UNHCR) More than 800 Afro-Colombians have fled their homes along western Colombia's Anchicayá River and sought shelter in the Pacific Ocean port of Buenaventura since the beginning of the month.

The displacements appear to be linked to the growth of illegal mining and the struggle between illegal armed groups to control this activity. The area is rich in valuable mineral resources, including gold.

A UNHCR press release said the security situation in the region had deteriorated on February 28, when a public bus was stopped by an illegal armed group and a man from the village of Agua Clara was shot dead. More people fled when two bodies were seen floating in the Anchicayá River on March 7-8.

As of last Friday, the authorities in Buenaventura had registered the arrival of 789 displaced people from 215 families, including 370 children and 46 older people. However, 62 more families arrived in Buenaventura from the village of Llano Bajo on Monday.

UNHCR plans to visit the area with government officials and NGO representatives in the next few days to gather first-hand information about the population movement.

Meanwhile, UNHCR also reported that a group of 200 members of the Embera indigenous group in Colombia's Choco department (north of Beunaventura) had been forced to flee their homes on the banks of the Pavasa River due to the activities of another illegal armed group.

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