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Colombia: UNHCR's concerns for indigenous peoples

Briefing notes

Colombia: UNHCR's concerns for indigenous peoples

8 August 2003

UNHCR is deeply concerned about the effect that Colombia's internal strife is having on the country's indigenous people. We are urging all parties concerned to respect the rights of indigenous people and to stop discriminating against them.

The latest report of the National Indigenous Organisation of Colombia (ONIC), released before the International Day of Indigenous Peoples (August 9), paints a grim picture of the situation of Colombia's indigenous communities. According to the figures, virtually all of the 84 indigenous groups present on Colombian territory have victims of forced displacement or are threatened by it. According to ONIC, nearly 13,000 indigenous persons fled their original homelands in the years 2001 and 2002. During the first half of 2003, over 50 indigenous persons have been murdered and as many as 3,000 have had to leave their homes in fear for their lives.

UNHCR is also very concerned about the negative impact that forced displacement is having on the social and cultural fabric of Colombia's indigenous groups and on the long term prospects of survival of some communities.

UNHCR is helping ONIC and other indigenous peoples' organisations in Colombia to monitor the situation of indigenous groups in the country. We are also involved in public dissemination of existing laws and regulations which protect indigenous peoples and internally displaced persons (IDPs) - one way of ensuring that at least some of these laws are known and respected.