Forced displacements have long been a tragic outcome of the war in Colombia, but even though violence has reportedly diminished in recent years, over 200 families in the state of Antioquia remain displaced and refuse to return home because of the ongoing fighting.
Authorities recently traveled to the state to console the almost 600 people who are now staying in humanitarian camps in the village of Puerto Claver. They refuse to return to their territories because of the growing paramilitary violence and the failure of authorities to respond, according to reports by El Espectador Sunday.
“The families are frightened because they do not see any security in the village,” said one of the victims housed in the humanitarian shelter, which was moved from the village of La Primavera, where the first fighting took place.
According to the victims, the visiting authorities – who included the ombudsman, as well as officials from the Public Ministry and the Family Welfare Institute – did little to put the their minds at rest.
The authorities did not give any concrete solutions as to how they would address the violence and security issues in the region, said those who are now living in the humanitarian shelters.
The conditions in the shelters have also been deteriorating, as many are without food, mattresses, water and toiletries, according to local media reports.
“We remain here in the shelter, and since the 5th (of January) they do not give us any news. The fighting has not continued, but the military operation itself is. The food they sent us is already running out, children are getting sick with diarrhea and flu,” said one of the displaced to Caracol Radio.
Many of those staying in the shelters have been recently displaced after fighting broke out earlier this month, and say that authorities have not kept them updated on the current situation in their communities.
The families also said that military and police had recently entered the shelter with weapons, causing insecurity amongst the newly displaced residents.
The state of Antioquia is one of the most violent in the country, where former President Alvaro Uribe once served as governor (1995-1997). As governor, Uribe began a controversial program to create armed citizen policing groups, known as the ‘Convivir’ program, which committed various human rights violations. The effect of these groups, which are considered some of the first paramilitary groups, are still being felt in the state today, according to human rights observers.
The Colombian government and the FARC guerrillas have been undergoing peace talks in Havana, Cuba, for the past three years in order to end the over five decades of civil war.
IN DEPTH: Colombia Peace Process Explained
The two sides are closer than ever to signing a final peace deal, expected to take place in March. However, the FARC has repeatedly said that a peace deal cannot be reached unless the government acknowledge the continued existence of paramilitary groups and work towards their disarmament.
WATCH: Colombia: Drug, Paramilitary Allegations Halt General's Promotion