HomeNewsNumber of People Fleeing Their Homes Has Doubled in Colombia

Number of People Fleeing Their Homes Has Doubled in Colombia


The pandemic has done nothing to reduce clashes between criminal actors in Colombia, with a rise in violence in early 2021 causing the number of people fleeing their homes to skyrocket.

Between January and March 2021, displacements in Colombia increased by 101 percent compared with the same period in 2020, the United Nations Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs (OCHA) warned in its June 2021 report.

Of those displaced, 80 percent fled due to threats from criminal groups or outbreaks of violence, accounting for 29,252 displaced people, mostly in Colombia's Pacific region and the Western departments of Nariño, Antioquia and Cauca.

Only a fraction of those displaced - 5,415 people in total - had been able to return home by June 2021.

SEE ALSO: Violence Rages On in Colombia's Cauca Department

While Colombia is home to a growing number of criminal groups, the OCHA report showed that the country's three largest are mostly responsible for the displacements, namely the National Liberation Army (Ejército de Liberación Nacional - ELN), the Gaitanista Self-Defense Forces of Colombia (Autodefensas Gaitanistas de Colombia - AGC), also known as the Urabeños, and a range of dissident groups once belonging to the former Revolutionary Armed Forces of Colombia (Fuerzas Armadas Revolucionarias de Colombia - FARC).

InSight Crime Analysis

Residents of Colombia's most at-risk areas are paying the price for the adaptability shown by the country's criminal groups during the COVID-19 pandemic.

Security forces have been distracted by a COVID-19 crisis that has pummeled the country in waves. While displacements doubled between January and March 2021, clashes between criminal actors and authorities dwindled.

Security operations against armed groups dropped by 48 percent between January and April, while reports of violence between criminal actors increased by 44 percent, according to a report by the Ideas for Peace Foundation think tank (Fundación Ideas para la Paz - FIP).

SEE ALSO: Criminal Governance Under Coronavirus: How Colombian Groups Seized the Day

And why were Nariño, Cauca and Antioquia the most violent departments? In a 2019 review of displacements in Colombia by InSight Crime, these three departments already accounted for three of the top four departments with the most people fleeing their homes. The motives have only worsened.

In Antioquia, seven community displacements had already occurred in different areas of the department by March. In total, more than 4,000 people left municipalities such as Ituango, Amalfi, Peque and Murindo due to armed confrontations between the ELN and Urabeños, RCN reported.

Nariño, on Colombia’s southern border with Ecuador, has been in serious conflict due to the former FARC factions, ELN and Urabeños all fighting for control. But in early 2021, the dissident FARC groups have increasingly turned on each other.

Violence between the FARC's dissident 30th Front and an alliance of FARC and Urabeños groups has made the situation all the more volatile.

To the north of Nariño, in Cauca, FARC dissident cells and the ELN are fighting over coca. The eternal attempts to control cocaine trafficking has seen a worrying escalation of brutal old war tactics, such as anti-personnel mines. Out of fear of falling victim to these explosive devices, dozens of families have fled the municipality of Argelia, one of Cauca's violence hotspots. In Caloto, another municipality in Cauca, 500 people abandoned their homes due to clashes.

While mobility restrictions have only recently been lifted in many parts of Colombia, it appears that criminal groups have ignored those restrictions and quarantine measures for months. As they have tried to recover economic losses resulting from the pandemic, Colombians caught in the crossfire have been forced to leave their homes in the midst of a complicated health crisis in order to save their lives.

share icon icon icon

Was this content helpful?

We want to sustain Latin America’s largest organized crime database, but in order to do so, we need resources.


What are your thoughts? Click here to send InSight Crime your comments.

We encourage readers to copy and distribute our work for non-commercial purposes, with attribution to InSight Crime in the byline and links to the original at both the top and bottom of the article. Check the Creative Commons website for more details of how to share our work, and please send us an email if you use an article.

Was this content helpful?

We want to sustain Latin America’s largest organized crime database, but in order to do so, we need resources.


Related Content

COLOMBIA / 18 OCT 2022

Former FARC commander Iván Mordisco has reappeared in Colombia after months of speculation that he had died.

COLOMBIA / 21 MAR 2022

Almost a year after the use of landmines was first reported in Venezuela, their deployment now appears a routine tactic…


On April 23, 2021, two Venezuelan military helicopters landed near the town of La Victoria in the border state of…

About InSight Crime


Escaping Barrio 18

27 JAN 2023

Last week, InSight Crime published an investigation charting the story of Desafío, a 28-year-old Barrio 18 gang member who is desperate to escape gang life. But there’s one problem: he’s…


Europe Coverage Makes a Splash

20 JAN 2023

Last week, InSight Crime published an analysis of the role of Amsterdam’s Schiphol Airport as an arrival hub for cocaine and methamphetamine from Mexico.  The article was picked up by…


World Looks to InSight Crime for Mexico Expertise

13 JAN 2023

Our coverage of the arrest of Chapitos’ co-founder Ovidio Guzmán López in Mexico has received worldwide attention.In the UK, outlets including The Independent and BBC…


InSight Crime Shares Expertise with US State Department

16 DEC 2022

Last week, InSight Crime Co-founder Steven Dudley took part in the International Anti-Corruption Conference organized by the US State Department’s Bureau of Democracy, Human Rights, & Labor and…


Immediate Response to US-Mexico Marijuana Investigation

9 DEC 2022

InSight Crime’s investigation into how the legalization of marijuana in many US states has changed Mexico’s criminal dynamics made a splash this week appearing on the front page of…