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Lubbers to visit displaced community in Colombia

Lubbers to visit displaced community in Colombia

In a first for a UN refugee agency chief, High Commissioner Ruud Lubbers has started a four-day mission to Colombia, scene of one of the world's most serious internal displacement situations, where he will meet President Álvaro Uribe as well as victims of the decades-long conflict.
26 November 2002
UNHCR chief Ruud Lubbers is set to visit some associations for displaced persons in Barrancabermaja, which have helped this displaced Colombian woman find a job in a catering kitchen.

BOGOTA, Colombia, November 26 (UNHCR) - UN refugee agency chief Ruud Lubbers today started a four-day mission to Colombia - the first by a UN High Commissioner for Refugees - where he will call for more international support for one of the world's most serious internal displacement situations.

Arriving in the Colombian capital of Bogota on Tuesday, Lubbers is expected to meet President Álvaro Uribe and senior government officials, as well as representatives of some 60 non-governmental organisations working in Colombia, UN agencies, members of the diplomatic corps and private enterprise.

"I call on Colombia to work towards a situation that achieves, in the context of an ongoing conflict, respect of the civilian populations and allows humanitarian action to be carried out," said Lubbers.

To see first-hand the situation of displaced Colombians, the High Commissioner will travel to the city of Barrancabermeja, where he will meet with members of several associations of internally displaced persons (IDPs) and visit a project to benefit IDP children.

During Lubbers' visit, the United Nations System will present a Humanitarian Plan of Action for Colombia that aims to make the work of the different UN agencies more complementary by providing a strategic framework for joint planning and action.

More than 2 million people have been displaced by a decades-long internal conflict in Colombia. This year alone, over 200,000 people have been forced to flee their homes. Tens of thousands more have been forced to seek 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 UN refugee agency aims to help provide protection, assistance and lasting solutions for IDPs in Colombia by reinforcing the government's abilities to cope with the crisis, providing legal assistance to displaced persons and supporting their associations.

Among other projects, UNHCR has provided the National Registry with a mobile unit to register the internally displaced, who often live in remote areas around the country. Together with the Registry, the refugee agency has organised documentation campaigns to help IDPs obtain identification documents - a necessary element for their protection and to facilitate their access to aid.

UNHCR is also working to strengthen the implementation of national legislation in all the different phases of displacement, with special attention to the needs of the most vulnerable groups. The agency has launched a number of programmes on education for displaced children, psychological and social rehabilitation of children and families traumatised by the conflict, and support for women who head households.

The refugee agency has four offices in Colombia - a branch office in Bogota, and field offices in Apartadó, Barrancabermeja and Puerto Asís.