United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR), the United Nations refugee agency, has warned of displacement of thousands of Colombians despite the signing of the historic ceasefire accord that is supposed to bring an end to the war between the Colombian government and the leftist Revolutionary Armed Forces of Colombia (FARC) rebels.
The historic accord was signed by Colombian President Juan Manuel Santos and FARC leader Timochenko in Havana and attended by the likes of U.N. Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon, Chilean President Michelle Bachelet and Venezuelan President Nicolas Maduro.
The peace accord, which lays out a definitive bilateral ceasefire and a plan for 7,000 rebels to demobilize and surrender their weapons, is expected to bring resolution to a conflict that has raged for over half a century and has killed more than 200,000 people, according to a report by Reuters.
Santos and the FARC have jointly agreed to the final accord, which would be decided by the Colombian public in a referendum expected in July.
However, UNHCR is wary of other militia and organized groups involved in drug-trafficking, illegal mining and extortion rackets taking control over the rebel territory.
"The news of the bilateral ceasefire is very important. But at the same time we have to be cautious as this is only the beginning of the peace process and not the end, Displacement in Colombia, it won't go away with the bilateral ceasefire" Reuters quoted Martin Gottwald, acting head of the UNHCR office in Colombia, as saying.
"It is likely that displacement figures for 2016 will be close to those of 2015, due to ongoing violence in various parts of the country, particularly in border areas and at the Pacific Coast," Gottwald said.
Government figures suggest that 113,700 people were freshly displaced last year, many forced from their homes due to violence by organized criminal gangs known as BACRIM. "Violence by BACRIM causes more people to flee their homes than that by FARC rebels." Paula Gaviria, Colombia's presidential advisor for human rights, said.
According to UNHCR statistics, with nearly 7 million displaced Colombians, it ranks highest in a list of most displaced people, above Syria and Iraq.