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Colombia: ID project launched for internally displaced

Briefing notes

Colombia: ID project launched for internally displaced

11 June 2002

UNHCR is launching a project today in Antioquia department of Colombia to provide identification documents to internally displaced people. The ID document project has already reached 24 of Colombia's 34 departments and has provided more than 52,000 people with documents since 1999.

The project is now targeting Antioquia, which is one of the departments most severely affected by internal displacement, hosting an estimated 10 percent of all the displaced people in the country.

The project is being carried out with Colombia's National Registrar and the departmental and municipal committees for displaced persons. A mobile documentation unit will visit settlement sites for displaced people in Valle de Aburra and various other municipalities in Antioquia to issue IDs for the displaced in the region.

Documentation is particularly crucial for Colombia's internally displaced people. Identification documents can help displaced people gain access to benefits to which they are entitled under Colombian law, such as health care, schools, or even credit and bank loans, but which can prove difficult to obtain without documentation.

UNHCR and the documentation teams make a particular effort to reach displaced women to provide them with documents. An estimated 34 percent of all displaced families in Colombia are headed by women on their own. Many of the women do not have their own documentation, which originally would have been in the name of their male family members.

The project includes training for government registration officers, with more than 500 trained so far. UNHCR also provides equipment and other support to the documentation units and conducts information campaigns to inform displaced people about the availability and the advantages of registering and receiving documents.

UNHCR also has a campaign to provide documentation to former conscripts who lost their record of military service. This is required to pursue their education or to get a job.

The conflict in Colombia has uprooted some 190,000 people in the past year alone, according to government figures. Some estimates put the number of people displaced over the 40-year conflict at 2 million. Many thousands more have fled to neighbouring countries or sought asylum in Costa Rica, North America and Europe.