Woman cooking on an open fire.
As Cebine does everyday, each family in her community grows their own food. They, themselves are in charge of planting the food and cooking. However, their harvest has been affected by the presence of non-state armed groups and the anti-personnel mines they have left in the territory. “Men go to the mountains to look for turkey, tatabro, deer and so on. Now, we are not working because of the armed groups"' says Cebine.

Six years after Colombia peace deal, armed groups keep over 100,000 in forced confinement

Published 24. Nov 2022
The Norwegian Refugee Council (NRC) calls on the Colombian government and armed groups to negotiate an end to non-state actors’ practice of confining entire communities to their homes or neighbourhoods, preventing them from accessing job opportunities, healthcare, and education.

"Imagine being forced to stay in your home by men with guns – day after day. The confinement in Colombia means you can’t work, visit your family or send your children to school," said Juan Gabriel Wells, interim country director for NRC in Colombia. "We call on the Colombian government and non-state armed actors to agree on a lasting peace that benefits the vulnerable populations affected by these inhumane restrictions of movement."

24 November 2022 marks the sixth anniversary of the signing of the peace agreement between the Colombian government and the Revolutionary Armed Forces of Colombia (FARC). Yet, armed violence persists, and the country continues to be immersed in six ongoing non-international armed conflicts affecting millions of people. The armed groups use forced confinement as a strategy to exert control over isolated communities and territories that are often used for illicit activities.

"The rules imposed by the armed groups are: 'you can't go out;' 'you can't use that road;' 'we don't want to see any people passing through here.' We are trapped," said Cecil, an indigenous teacher from the pacific coast region.

While the new government has shown interest and commitment towards "total peace", the negative impact of armed conflict on civilians' daily lives is increasing, resulting in thousands of communities existing in a state of fear, anxiety, and helplessness. More than 2.6 million people have had their movements restricted during 2022 alone, with indigenous and Afro-Colombian communities being some of the worst affected (OCHA).

"Where I live, we are afraid to walk [outside] – we can't do it freely. Whenever the armed groups come, they bring landmines. If it's a big device, it kills us, and if it is smaller, it blows away limbs from a person, leaving them with incomplete bodies," said Nelsa, who lives in southwestern Colombia.

NRC reiterates the importance of treating civilians in armed conflict with dignity. "Confinement and the restrictions on mobility we are witnessing in Colombia is humiliating and degrading. Armed groups must commit to ending this senseless practice immediately," said NRC’s Wells.

Notes to editors:

  • Photos and video available for free use here.
  • Almost six million people —over 12 per cent of Colombia's population— live in areas where armed groups are active (OCHA).
  • More than 2.6 million people had their movements restricted during 2022 alone (OCHA).
  • Nearly 120,000 people were still confined as of October 2022 (OCHA).
  • According to the Norwegian Refugee Council's (NRC) annual Global Displacement Overview, Colombia has the third-highest number of displaced people globally.

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