The Current Situation of Colombian Refugees in the World

A Literature Review on Existing Research

Literature Review, 2016

15 Pages, Grade: 7


Table of contents


The situation of displaced people before escaping from Colombia

The situation of Colombian refugees after escaping from Colombia

The situation of Colombian refugees in developing countries

The situation of Colombian refugees in industrialized countries



The current situation of Colombian refugees in the world


Previous qualitative and quantitative research about the armed conflict in Colombia between government army forces, paramilitaries and guerrilla groups have been conducted globally (Dongen, 2005; Tobar Torres, 2015; Gottwald, 2004; Bermudez, 2013; Schussler, 2009; Shedlin, et al., 2016). According to Giraldo (2005), the armed conflict in Colombia began in 1946 and then worsened in 1960 when left-wing guerrilla groups emerged. Later, drug gangs emerged extending terror in Colombian (Gottwald, 2004). Next, in the 80s, right-wing paramilitary groups were created by rich people to combat against guerrilla forces (Giraldo, 2005). The civil war that Colombia has faced for more than 60 years has left terrible consequences in the country, part of which will be described in this literature review.

A piece of quantitative research conducted in Colombia by El Centro Nacional de Memoria Histórica de Colombia (2013) shows that 220,000 people were killed in the Colombian conflict between the years 1958-2012. Further, from that total 177,307 people were civilians and the other 40,787 were combatants in the conflict (Reyes, 2013). In addition, the research showed that from 1981 to 2012, around 150,000 people were killed in Colombia and those responsible for these deaths are as follows: Colombia's army 10.1%; guerrilla groups 16.8%; paramilitary groups 38.4%; unidentified armed groups 27.7%; other groups 7% (Reyes, 2013). The conflict in Colombia has left 1,754 victims of sexual violence from 1985-2012 (Reyes, 2013). Further, 27,023 Colombians were kidnapped between 1970 and 2010. Of these, guerrilla forces sequestered 24,482 people and 2,541 were abducted by paramilitary groups (Reyes, 2013). In addition, 25,007 Colombians are missing from 1985 to 2012. (Reyes, 2013). Another negative impact of the war in Colombia is the massive displacement of Colombians. For example, 4,744,048 Colombians were displaced from their homes from 1996 to 2012 (Reyes, 2013). During this period, there have been more than 4.7 million internally displaced, a much higher number than the population of Ireland or New Zealand (Reyes, 2013). Likewise, according to Human Rights Watch (2015), the armed conflict in Colombia has left almost six million displaced people. However, the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugee in Colombia reports that they are providing humanitarian assistance to 6,939,067 displaced people (ACNUR1, 2015)

A large number of people displaced by violence in Colombia have felt unsafe and for that reason have escaped to neighbouring countries in search of international protection. According to ACNUR (2012) and Terra (2014), there are more than 400,000 Colombian refugees in the world. Thus, the purpose of this literature review is to provide an answer to the question: What is the current situation of the Colombian refugees in the world? Subsequently, to accomplish this objective the literature review responds to the next four sub-questions: What is the situation of displaced people before escaping from Colombia? What is the situation of Colombian refugees after escaping from Colombia? What is the situation of Colombian refugees in developing countries? And what is the situation of Colombian refugees in industrialized countries? Finally, this literature review concludes with a summary of the research and a recommendation for future research.

The situation of displaced people before escaping from Colombia

Previous researches about displaced people in Colombia have shown the difficult situations faced by those people (Castillo, 2005). For instance, Puertas, Ríos and Del Valle (2006) explain in their quantitative and qualitative research (Mixed methodology) that a problem affecting displaced people in Colombia is mental disorders. The data collection methods used by these researchers were first, Selection of slums in Sincelejo Colombia where there is a large number of displaced persons to participate in the research (Puertas, Ríos, & del Valle, 2006). Secondly, a household survey was conducted to determine the presence of common mental disorders such as depression, anxiety and psychosomatic disorders in the population studied (Puertas, Ríos, & del Valle, 2006). Thirdly, a symptom questionnaire statement by the World Health Organization was implemented to determine the presence of a mental disorder common in people over 18 years old and to analyze this based on a mathematical and statistical score (Puertas, Ríos, & del Valle, 2006). This research concluded that a large number of people, displaced by violence, living in Sincelejo Colombia are suffering common mental disorders due to trauma caused by their forced displacements (Puertas, Ríos, & del Valle, 2006). However, it could be argued that in order to present a more reliable and credible conclusion, researchers should have used in-depth interviews, observation and focus group as data collection methods, but they did not do it that way (O’leary, 2014).

Another problem faced by internally displaced persons in Colombia is the lack of protection by the Colombian government (Carreño, 2012). For this reason, a large number of displaced people live in constant fear; in fact, many of them are persecuted by the participants of the armed conflict in Colombia (Jaramillo, Villa, & Sánchez, 2004). This situation has forced many displaced people to flee from one place to another within the country looking for safety, but even so, there have been cases where their pursuers have killed them and some other have been missing (Monroy, 2011; Jaramillo, Villa & Sánchez, 2004; Robles, 2011; Paz In Motion, 2016). These events have raised deep fears in the displaced persons and they do not feel safe to present complaints before the competent authorities of Colombia because they suspect that their persecutors infiltrate these state institutions (Riano Botina, 2012). For example, during the 90s and early 2000 many government agencies such as the police, the national army and the Attorney General’s office were infiltrated by members of paramilitary groups, even right now, thousands of Columbians believe that the former president of Colombia, Alvaro Uribe Velez was a promoter and financier of paramilitary groups (Riano Botina, 2012; Morris, 2011).

Clearly, if a displaced person came to the government's agencies to denounce these armed groups, the displaced was in danger of being betrayed by these government agencies and could eventually be killed by paramilitary groups for being considered a whistle blower (Riano Botina, 2012; Morris, 2011). Consequently, thousands of displaced Colombians do not feel safe in Colombia and have preferred to cross borders to seek international protection in neighbouring countries such as Ecuador, Venezuela, Peru, Panama and Costa Rica (Gottwald, 2004). The evidence demonstrates that displaced people in Colombia are living in extremely dangerous situations before escaping from that country. Likewise, the social-economic situation of Colombian refugees after escaping from Colombia is extremely difficult.

The situation of Colombian refugees after escaping from Colombia

According to Jaramillo, Villa and Sanchez (2004), 64% of the Colombians displaced to neighbouring countries escape from death threats made by armed groups. Once they cross borders, these people are no longer internally displaced and become asylum seekers in the new country (ACNUR, 2015). However, many displaced people do not know that they have a right to apply for refugee status when arriving in another country, so they do not make a formal request for the refugee status (ACNUR, 2015). For instance, according to Jaramillo (2008) around 500,000 Colombians live in an irregular status in Ecuador, either because of ignorance of international law or simply due to fear of being rejected as refugees and consequently be deported to Colombia. Another reason that prevents Colombians from formally submitting their application for refugee status is that they believe that their pursuers could come into Ecuador looking for them; to achieve these objective criminals impersonate refugees with the purpose of finding them and kill them (Gottwald, 2004). This fear makes refuges stay undercover without the protection of the Ecuadorian government and2 UNHCR (Gottwald, 2004). The problem already described creates other problems for these people, such as poverty and hunger (Shedlin, et al., 2016).

Many Colombian refugees have felt forced to escape quickly from Colombia abandoning their belongings, so the clothes they were wearing were all they owned for starting a new life in a different country (Paz In Motion, 2016). This shows the state of poverty of Colombian refugees arriving in a new country. Thus, in these deplorable conditions, the newcomers begin noticing that it is very hard to be out of Colombia because they have to deal with poverty, which makes it more difficult integrating into the community (Kniffki & Reutlinger, 2016). Under these conditions’ poverty, refugees lack the most basic food and many of them feel miserable about having to come to a foreign country in search of protection (Shedlin, et al., 2016). It is obviously true that the situation of refugees after escaping from Colombia to move into underdeveloped countries is traumatic and challenging for them (Gottwald, 2004). In these countries, the Colombian refugees are suffering from many problems, some of which are described below.


1 Alto Comisionado de las Naciones Unidas para los Refugiados. (United Nations High Commissioner for Refugee)

2 United Nations High Commissioner for Refugee

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The Current Situation of Colombian Refugees in the World
A Literature Review on Existing Research
UNITEC New Zealand
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current, situation, colombian, refugees, world, literature, review, existing, research
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Alfredo Lopez (Author), 2016, The Current Situation of Colombian Refugees in the World, Munich, GRIN Verlag,


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