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Colombia: mobile registration unit in-country

Briefing notes

Colombia: mobile registration unit in-country

11 April 2003

Last weekend, the mobile registration unit provided by UNHCR to the Colombian National Registrar arrived in San Francisco, Colombia, some 115 km from the country's second largest city, Medellín, to carry out an emergency documentation campaign for recently displaced people.

Apart from emergency aid and shelter, displaced people need identification documents in order to exercise their rights and to receive the necessary assistance from the authorities. Since most displaced persons lack these documents, UNHCR and the Departmental Committee for Displaced Persons initiated the emergency documentation campaign. To date, 700 ID cards have been issued. A total of 2,000 people, including local residents, will benefit from this campaign. The campaign comes in the wake of major displacement to San Francisco from the surrounding countryside. Heavy fighting between Colombian guerrillas and paramilitary groups has sent all of the area's rural population into the town of San Francisco. Some 1,300 persons, mostly subsistence farmers, have fled the countryside, doubling the town's population.

This is the second emergency documentation campaign organised by the National Registrar and UNHCR in Colombia. The first took place when thousands of people fled the Atrato River region after the massacre of 119 people at a church in Bojaya nearly a year ago. For some people, particularly subsistence farmers, never having received documentation was not a practical problem. Now that they are displaced, however, they need the documents to get government help and services. The mobile unit, provided and equipped by UNHCR, carries out the necessary collection of personal data and takes the photos to be used on the cards. The required blood typing is being carried out at the municipal hospital with support from UNICEF.