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Colombia: AHC's visit underscores UNHCR concerns

Briefing notes

Colombia: AHC's visit underscores UNHCR concerns

11 February 2000

Assistant High Commissioner Søren Jessen-Petersen is currently in Colombia on a five-day visit that underscores UNHCR's serious concerns over the magnitude of displacement in that country.

Over the past few days, Jessen-Petersen has met with President Pastrana, with Minister of Foreign Affairs Guillermo Fernandez de Soto; the Minister of National Defence, Luis Fernando Ramírez; and other officials, church leaders and displaced people.

All of these people expressed deep concern regarding the plight of hundreds of thousands of displaced Colombians. Estimates place the number at more than 800,000. Jessen-Petersen told those he met that UNHCR, as part of a wider UN interagency team, is committed to intensifying its efforts to help those who have been forcibly displaced by armed conflict.

Under a 1999 agreement with the Colombian Government, UNHCR is currently helping to strengthen the local capacity to deal with displacement. As part of that effort, we recently established two field offices - one in Barrancabermeja, an oil port on the Magdalena River, and the other in Apartadó, in the region of Urabá. A third office will be opened in Putumayo once the required conditions are in place. Among other things, we are also assisting in the design of a registration project for IDPs and in the implementation of the National Information System on Internal Displacement.