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High Commissioner visits Colombia

Briefing notes

High Commissioner visits Colombia

26 November 2002

UN High Commissioner for Refugees Ruud Lubbers today begins a four-day mission to Colombia, where he will focus on one of the world's most serious internal displacement situations. During his visit, the first by a UN High Commissioner for Refugees to the South American country, Mr. Lubbers will urge international support for Colombia, where over 2 million people have been displaced by a decades-long internal conflict. This year alone, more than 200,000 people have been forced to flee their homes. Tens of thousands more have sought refuge in neighbouring countries, as well as in North America and Europe. In the first six months of this year, some 900 to 1,000 people became internally displaced each day in Colombia.

The High Commissioner, who is calling for respect for civilian populations and the humanitarian workers trying to help them, is scheduled to arrive in Bogota today. He is expected to meet President Álvaro Uribe and senior government officials, as well as representatives of some 60 NGOs working in Colombia, UN agencies, and members of the diplomatic corps and private enterprise. He will also travel to the city of Barrancabermeja, where he will see first-hand the situation of the displaced.

During Mr. Lubbers' visit, the United Nations system will present a Humanitarian Plan of Action for Colombia that provides a strategic framework for joint planning and action. UNHCR helps provide protection, assistance and lasting solutions for IDPs (internally displaced persons) in Colombia by reinforcing the government's ability to cope with the crisis and by providing legal assistance to displaced persons and supporting their associations. We have four offices in Colombia: a branch office in Bogota, and field offices in Apartadó, Barrancabermeja and Puerto Asís.