Concerned population


There are 270 000 IDPs in Bogota but the real number is likely to be much higher. More than 90 % IDPs in Colombia live in urban areas and concentrate in 12 cities (Refugee International, 2012).


The overwhelming majority of IDPs living in Bogota originate from rural areas (ICRC, 2011). They are predominantly young with an average age of 23 (ICRC  2009). 39 % of the families are single headed. Family are composed of an average of 5 members. Half of the IDP population are women.

Other cities affected:

Cali, Cartagena, Medellin, Barranquilla, Santa Marta, Buenaventura

Displacement pattern

Causes of the conflict

The roots of the conflict in Colombia are to be found in an unequal repartition of lands. IDPs flee from rural areas because of:

  • general violence
  • conflict between insurgents groups
  • regular armed forces abuses
  • direct threats and targeted human rights violations (against specific communities such as indigenous people and people of African descent, community leaders, trade-unionists etc…)

Trends and figures:

At least 3,9 million people have been displaced within Colombia since the beginning of the armed conflict in 1970. The reorganization of guerrilla and paramilitary groups has lead to an  increase of 50% of mass displacement between 2010 and 2011. The trend was confirmed in 2012. An average of 130 000 people are displaced annually which makes Colombia the country with the highest number of IDPs in the world (Refugee International, 2012).

Population movements:

The bulk of IDPs originates from rural areas and flees to the nearest city centre. Subsequently, IDPs tend to go to medium or large cities. Some are displaced another time and try to find shelter in another town (ICRC, 2009).
Displacements can occur on an individual or on a massive basis.
Certain areas of the country, especially Antioquia, Nariño, Cauca, Valle del Cauca and Córdoba are more affected than others by the conflict and consequently generate more IDPs.

Return prospects:

The recent victim reparation law proved that the vast majority of IDPs prefers to remain in urban settings instead of returning to their home lands (Refugee International).
At the time of writing, conditions conducive to bringing displacement to an end are clearly not met. A massive return of IDPs is still stalled by the acute instability of displacement-generating regions.

Living areas

IDPs mainly live in informal settlements surrounding Bogota consequently to a conurbation process, such as Suba and Ciudad Bolívar. Some of these settlements undergo routine evictions while others were granted electricity and very basic sanitation infrastructure by the municipality.

Specific protection concerns


The slums of Bogota are highly violent as illegal armed groups control certain areas of the city. The “urbanization of war” is a main concern and put the IDP population at high risk of further persecutions

Access to assistance:

 IDPs live at the outskirts of Bogota and have difficulties acceding to assistance due to long distance and a bad transport system. The delivery of first assistance can take up to 2 years. Many IDPs are also reluctant to approaching institutions for fear of being further persecuted

Extreme poverty:

95 % of  IDPs living in Bogota live in poverty, 75 % in extreme poverty (IDMC).

Precarious housing:

Many IDPs reside in areas vulnerable to flood and landslide in the South of the capital city, in squalid conditions


The coexistence of rural – urban migrations and forced displacement in Colombia renders registration of IDPs quite complicated. The two motivations to settle in Bogota are often mingled due to the very nature of the conflict. As a result, only 50 % of the overall IDP population registered with UNHCR (Forced Migration Review 34)

Legal framework


Guiding Principles on Internal Displacement are cited by the Constitutional Court as a basis of judgement and “ Colombian statutory law, case law, and administrative law references the Guiding Principles repeatedly” (IDMC website).


June 2011: Victims Reparations and Land Restitution law: facilitates the return of IDPs to their home lands and their integration in their new places of residence.
For a comprehensive overview of the national legislation of Colombia on IDPs, see the UNHCR database:

UNHCR Operation

UNHCR has implemented a new initiative together with UNDP: the Transitional  Solutions Initiative program, that aims at piloting local integration programs for urban IDP in their area of residence.

Online resources

Marc Hanson, Colombia- Transformational change must include urban IDPs, Refugee International, sept. 2012

IDMC / NRC, Improved government response yet to have impact for IDPs,29 December 2011

The Brookings-Bern Project on Internal Displacement, Protecting the displaced in Colombia – the role of municipal authorities,  14 nov. 2008

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