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Colombia: hundreds flee to Venezuela

Briefing notes

Colombia: hundreds flee to Venezuela

6 February 2001

Alleged paramilitary attacks inside Colombia have driven hundreds of indigenous people into Venezuela over the past two weeks. Some 400 people have fled northern Colombia's La Gabarra area in the Norte del Santander Department into Venezuela's municipality of José María Semprun. The refugees told local church officials they fled after hearing reports that homes were torched and livestock killed in neighbouring villages. The local authorities in Venezuela's state of Zulia acknowledged the influx and asked UNHCR to help the refugees, who are currently being looked after by the local Roman Catholic parish of Machiques. UNHCR has approached Venezuela's central government requesting access to the group but the government denied the presence of the refugees on Venezuelan soil. According to the church of Machiques, the refugees are scattered in the Rio de Oro area, including the Catatumbo river area, Frontalia, Cano Orinoco and Bokshi.