Six Years After Colombia Peace Deal, Armed Groups Keep Over 100,000 In Forced Confinements

By: Christian Jepsen

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 confinements in Colombia mean 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.”

November 24, 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 confinements 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 toward “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.

Christian Jepsen
Regional Communications Adviser 
Asia and Latin America Region (ALAR)
Phone/WhatsApp: +254 706 248 391 | Skype ID christian.jepsen1
Norwegian Refugee Council