To escape violence in their home country, Colombians are fleeing across borders. According to UNHCR, there are around 370,000 Colombians living as refugees in neighbouring countries. The majority go unrecognised as refugees by their host governments. NRC's assistance in Panama is part of our Colombia response.
Humanitarian and political background
Five decades of violence has transformed the conflict in Colombia into the worst humanitarian crisis in the Americas. Violence between armed guerrilla groups, drug traffickers, and government forces leaves millions caught in the crossfire.
6.6 million people have been displaced since the conflict began. To read more about the conflict in Colombia, please visit Our Country Programme in Colombia page.
Colombian refugees experience low rates of Refugee Status Determination (RSD) from their host countries.
Without recognition, Colombians living in Panama may be deported at any time. Families are broken up, as parents may be forced to leave their Panama-born children behind. Finding work becomes difficult without the proper documents. Colombians fleeing death threats from armed groups are forcibly returned.
NRC in Panama
In 2010, we began a regional refugee programme providing information, counselling and legal assistance (ICLA) to Colombian refugees in Venezuela, Panama, and Ecuador.
To protect Colombian refugees in Panama, we provide them with legal assistance and counselling. We also help them receive official recognition as refugees from the Panamanian and Colombian governments.
We run our activities in Panama out of our Panama City office.
Regional refugee programme
We assist vulnerable people in gaining refugee status and other forms of international protection. In Venezuela, Ecuador and Panama, we help refugees exercise their housing, land and property rights.
Our regional refugee programme aims to:
- Provide information and legal assistance to asylum seekers, refugees and people in need of international protection.
- Accompany recently arrived refugees to reach refugee commissions.
- Provide legal advice and assistance on housing, land and property rights.
- Ensure that asylum seekers, refugees and others can access the Colombian victims' registry and the reparation measures outlined in the victims' law.
- Give technical support to authorities to increase their capacity in reaching those in need.
- Overcome legal barriers that keep displaced people from accessing basic rights.
- Inform and empower individuals and communities on long-lasting solutions.
Strengthening displaced women’s rights
NRC’s experience and research indicates that the humanitarian community could do much more to support women as they claim their housing, land and property (HLP) rights. At a recent World Bank Conference, findings from Gaza and Ecuador and Panama were presented.