20 May 2005 Some 1,100 people have fled their homes along the Buey River in north-west Colombia, citing fears of heightened clashes in the area, according to the UN refugee agency, which has joined with local authorities on a mission to verify reports of further displacement in the area.
The internally displaced persons (IDPs), mostly Afro-Colombians, say they fled because they were afraid of fighting between the Colombian army and various armed groups operating around the river, a tributary of the Atrato River in the north-western Chocó province.
“The IDPs have told our staff in Quibdó that fear of clashes between irregular armed groups and the Colombian army provoked the displacement of the entire population of the Afro-Colombian communities of San Jose de Buey, La Vuelta, Curuchí, San Antonio de Buey, Aurobuey, Chibugá and Mansa,” said UNHCR spokesman Rod Redmond in Geneva. “Two indigenous communities still remain along the Buey River but it is feared that they may also join the exodus if the situation of insecurity in the area remains.”
Given the urgency of the situation, UNHCR is launching an emergency campaign with the Registry Office early next week to provide them with identity documents so that they can be entered into the Government's IDP registry and receive further assistance.
“UNHCR and other humanitarian organizations have repeatedly warned about the deepening crisis in the Chocó province and requested the Colombian authorities and the international community to intervene to prevent a humanitarian catastrophe, Mr. Redmond said.
Some 2 million people have been displaced because of armed conflict in Colombia. UNHCR is working with the Government and other UN agencies to protect the right of IDPs and prevent further displacement.