Colombia situation

Family photo of a mother sitting with her son and three daughters surrounding her.
Portrait of an internally displaced family in Colombia.
© UNHCR/Andrew McConnell
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Colombia Situation Funding Update - 2023
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January - July 2023
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January - June 2023
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January - May 2023
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April - June 2023
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Global Report 2022 


2022 Year-end population figures 

  • Refugees: 100,500  

  • Asylum-seekers: 127,300  

  • IDPs: 6.8 million  

  • Other populations of concern in Colombia: 516,000 

Figures for refugees and asylum-seekers refer to forcibly displaced Colombians in Argentina, Belize, Bolivia, Canada, Chile, Ecuador, Guyana, Panama, Paraguay, Spain, Trinidad and Tobago, the United States of America, Uruguay and the Bolivarian Republic of Venezuela. 


2022 Situation overview 

In 2022, the new Colombian Government proposed a proactive legislative agenda with three priorities intended to change the trajectory of the country and move towards sustainable development: total peace, social justice and environmental justice, aimed at the implementation of the National Development Plan 2022-2026. The total peace priority included the establishment of formal dialogues with over 30 irregular armed groups and entities to achieve sharp reductions in the level of violence.

Total peace led to some important advances in 2022, including a decrease in clashes between the Colombian army and some irregular armed actors. However, implementation will be a complex, extended process. In the second half of 2022, confrontations among irregular armed actors increased along the Pacific coast and in the eastern regions of the country. This led to forced displacement across borders, with around 500 new Colombian asylum-seekers registered in Ecuador.

Increasing internal displacement and confinement represented a major challenge, particularly associated with illicit economies and dynamics linked to armed violence, drug trafficking, recruitment and use of antipersonnel mines and unexploded ordnance, and risks faced by community leaders and authorities. In 2022, according to official figures, there were 176 major displacement events, affecting 68,000 people, representing a 10% increase from 2021. Similarly, 76 confinements occurred affecting 69,000 people, a 16% increase from 2021. The Government’s Victims’ Unit registered a total of 215,000 forcibly displaced people, the highest number since the signature of the Peace Agreement in 2016. Afro-Colombians and indigenous people continued to be the most affected by the armed conflict.

UNHCR continued to support the State to improve its institutional response to internal displacement by strengthening the Government’s capacity at the national and local levels to prevent displacement, provide protection and support durable solutions. UNHCR also supported the State’s presence and response in the areas most affected by the conflict through key institutions (e.g., local Ombudspersons’ Offices), strengthening alternative ways of registering offline declarations of victims of the armed conflict, as well as declarations of people who had been victims of mass displacement events or confinement. Throughout 2022, UNHCR directly assisted 187,600 Colombians, the majority of whom were IDPs or host communities to refugees and returnees. UNHCR also provided direct protection services to over 26,000 Colombians who required access to information about rights and services, including humanitarian assistance.  

Similarly, UNHCR, jointly with Government institutions, ethnic authorities, humanitarian, and civil society actors, contributed to strengthening community structures, both at national and local levels, to improve internally displaced people’s self-protection mechanisms, and expand spaces for their effective participation in local planning and decision-making. At the national level, UNHCR promoted the inclusion of affected communities in the design and formulation of public policies and for them to be able to influence the State’s protection mechanisms. 

In 2022 alone, over 39,000 people benefited from UNHCR’s long-standing experience in addressing solutions to internal displacement in Colombia, including technical assistance to key institutions, strong engagement with affected communities, and support for the legalization of 41 informal settlements, which hosted internally displaced people as well as refugees and migrants. UNHCR also assumed the role of co-leader, jointly with UNDP, of the new UN Steering Group on Solutions to Internal Displacement. The group harnessed the UN’s efforts and provided support to the Government through a “triple nexus” approach (humanitarian/development/peace) and advanced the implementation of recommendations of the High-Level Panel on Internal Displacement. 

By the end of 2022, there were 61,100 Colombian refugees and asylum-seekers among the 565,200 forcibly displaced people in Ecuador. UNHCR worked with the Ecuadorian Government to strengthen the quality of its asylum system and alternative protection-oriented legal stay arrangements. Likewise, according to official Government data, the Bolivarian Republic of Venezuela hosted over 9,400 recognized refugees, 20,000 people in a refugee-like situation, and 1,000 asylum-seekers. UNHCR strengthened its institutional relations with the National Commission for Refugees (CONARE) and the Office of the Ombudsperson by signing a Tripartite Agreement. UNHCR also supported CONARE’s outreach registration and documentation brigades, where CONARE registered 550 new asylum-seekers and recognized 19 refugees.  

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Global Appeal 2023

2023 population planning figures 

  • Refugees and asylum-seekers: 94,900  

  • IDPs*: 6.7 million 

  • Others of concern to UNHCR: 250,000 returnees from the Bolivarian Republic of Venezuela 

* Source: Victims Registry, Unidad para la Atención y Reparación Integral a las Víctimas. 


2023 situation overview 

In Colombia, while peace negotiations are ongoing, forced displacement and confinement persist in certain areas controlled or disputed by irregular armed groups. In June 2022, the national Ombudsman reported that between June 2021 and May 2022 there were 147 events of mass displacement, which affected nearly 60,000 people. In 2023, the challenging situation in these areas will continue to impact indigenous, rural and Afro-Colombian communities who are already at heightened risk. 

Protection needs remain pressing in areas affected by insecurity. UNHCR’s presence in field locations will remain crucial in 2023 to bolster coordinated efforts with local and national authorities in the monitoring of and quick response to displacement and confinement. Empowering communities to identify risks, implementing protective measures and arranging actions with competent authorities will help IDPs and host communities in the search for long-term solutions for the displaced population. UNHCR will work with Government institutions to advocate for measures addressing the structural risk factors that continue to cause internal displacement. Support to the implementation of the Victims Law will be maintained. 

In hosting countries such as Argentina, Brazil, Ecuador, Panama and Peru, an area-based approach will maximize the efficient use of resources where the needs of Colombian refugees coincide with those of Venezuelan refugees and migrants. UNHCR will continue its efforts to ensure access to asylum, documentation, civil registries, essential services, and inclusion in national social protection systems. 

Global Report 2021

2021 Year-end population figures 

  • Refugees: 116,000 

  • Asylum seekers: 81,000 

  • IDPs: 6.77 million 

  • Other populations of concern: 504,000 

2021 Situation overview  

Despite the efforts of the Government of Colombia to address armed violence, the national registry of victims recorded more than 130,000 newly displaced people in Colombia in 2021, and an additional 21,000 people were affected by confinements by illegal armed groups. Ethnic minorities were disproportionately affected, and Afro-Colombian and indigenous communities together accounted for 41% of those displaced and 99% of those confined. New displacement, confinement, violence and control by illegal armed groups, together with the pandemic, posed further challenges to advancing solutions for IDPs and improving humanitarian access. With the 10-year extension of Law 1448: Victims and Land Restitution, the Victims Unit continued to register and provide emergency response to those newly affected by displacement, while also working towards longer-term solutions. UNHCR supported the legalization of 22 urban informal settlements, benefiting more than 55,000 people since 2014.  

UNHCR and partners complemented Colombia’s institutional response to conflict-affected populations by strengthening the Government´s capacity at the national and local level to prevent displacement, provide protection and support durable solutions. UNHCR supported the State’s presence in the areas most affected by the conflict through key institutions, strengthening firstly the institutional capacity of the Ministry of Interior, with emphasis on the implementation of protection plans and monitoring collective protection measures; secondly, the presence of the Office of the Attorney General of the Nation, allowing permanent monitoring of the implementation of the Victims policy and the Peace Agreement; thirdly, the National Protection Unit in implementing collective protection mechanisms and prioritizing cases for special follow-up; and lastly, the Ombudsperson's Office, particularly within the Houses of Rights strategy, which assisted 22,000 people. 

UNHCR ensured the centrality of protection in inter-agency coordination platforms, ongoing protection monitoring, advocacy and outreach activities targeting vulnerable communities in areas particularly affected by conflict. The Victims Unit, the National Statistical Office and UNHCR began developing criteria and metrics – linked to the recommendations of the Expert Group on Refugee and IDP Statistics established by the Bureau of the United Nations Statistical Commission – to improve data on vulnerability levels among IDPs and on possible linkages with durable solutions. 

At the end of 2021, the total number of people of concern in Ecuador was 565,000 people, of which 54,000 were Colombian refugees. UNHCR strengthened child protection case management and the identification of needs both by UNHCR and its partners. One of the most important challenges was to strengthen capacity for conducting best interests assessments, with 110 children reached in 2021. 

According to official Government data, the Bolivarian Republic of Venezuela hosted 9,300 recognized refugees and 520 asylum seekers as of 31 December 2021, mostly from Colombia. UNHCR strengthened its institutional relations with the National Commission for Refugees (CONARE) and the Office of the Ombudsperson by signing of a Tripartite Agreement. UNHCR supported CONARE to enhance protection delivery at the community level and helped to organize 15 registration and documentation outreach brigades in remote areas, which registered and documented 310 asylum seekers.