World Video | Defence | Foreign Affairs | Natural Events | Trade | NZ in World News | NZ National News Video | NZ Regional News | Search

 

Colombian indigenous leaders flee to Panama

Colombian indigenous leaders flee to Panama after death threats, UN agency reports

Voicing renewed concern at the impact of Colombia’s four decades of civil conflict on its indigenous communities, with smaller groups threatened with extinction, the United Nations refugee agency (UNHCR) reported today that nearly 50 Wounaan people, seven of them leaders, had fled to neighbouring Panama in fear for their lives.

“Their journey started more than six weeks ago when they first fled their small river settlements in the western Colombian department of Choco, escaping threats from an irregular armed group,” UNHCR reported from Panama’s remote Darien region.

Their decision to cross the border was not an easy one. Leaving their traditional territories had already caused the group intense anguish. But, after weeks of fear and worry, they felt they were not safe in Colombia and had no choice but to flee again. On Tuesday, 47 people boarded three small boats to make the dangerous crossing over the rough sea to Panama’s Darien region on the Pacific coast, the Agency said.

The Director of UNHCR’s Bureau for the Americas, Philippe Lavanchy, on official mission to Panama, immediately went to the Darien where he found the 47 waiting in a small shelter, and met with the authorities to ensure that they would be allowed to stay and seek asylum. The Government confirmed that, in accordance with international law, the group would be allowed to remain.

“Now we can start breathing in peace again,” José (not his real name to protect his identity), one of the Wounaan leaders, told Mr. Lavanchy. “We have not stopped worrying ever since we left our homes. Now, we still don’t know what will happen to us - the violence still goes on and we do not know when we will be able to go back to our homes. But, here at least we know our families are safe.”

José was one of some 700 Wounaan who fled their ancestral territories in early April after members of an irregular armed group killed two of the community’s leaders within 48 hours. “They told me that they do not know what has happened to the others,” Mr. Lavanchy said. “They think that some are hiding in the jungle but they do not have any information about them, they do not even know if they are alive or dead.

“This is really a very distressing case and I am very grateful to the government of Panama for extending a helping hand to this group at a time of such hardship,” he added.

UNHCR has voiced mounting concern in recent months over the disproportionate impact on Colombia’s indigenous communities of more than 40 years of fighting between Government forces, leftist rebels and rightist paramilitaries that has displaced 2 million people. Forced displacement is especially hard on indigenous people, whose culture and traditions are closely linked to their ancestral lands.

© Scoop Media

 
 
 
World Headlines

 

Gordon Campbell: Is This Guy The World’s Most Dangerous Thirtysomething?

Saudi Arabia has long been regarded as a pillar of stability in the Middle East, and is the essential caterer to the West’s fossil fuel needs. It is also the country that gave us Osama Bin Laden, al Qaeda, and 15 of the 19 terrorists who carried out the 9/11 attacks... More>>

ALSO:

Non-Binding Postal Vote: Australia Says Yes To Same Sex Marriage

Binoy Kampmark: Out of 150 federal seats, 133 registered affirmative totals in returning their response to the question “Should the law be changed to allow same-sex couples to marry?”. More>>

ALSO:

Bonn Climate Change Conference: Protecting Health In Small Island States

The vision is that, by 2030, all Small Island Developing States will have health systems that are resilient to climate change and countries around the world will be reducing their carbon emissions both to protect the most vulnerable from climate risks and deliver large health benefits in carbon-emitting countries. More>>

ALSO:

Camp Shut Down: Refugees Must Be Rescued From Manus

On 31st October 2017, the detention centre on Manus Island in which the Australian Government has been holding more than 700 refugees was closed, leaving those living there in a desperate situation. More>>

ALSO:

EARLIER:

Rohingya Muslims Massacred: Restrictions On Aid Put 1000s At Risk

Amnesty: The Myanmar authorities’ restrictions on international aid in Rakhine state is putting tens of thousands of lives at risk in a region where mainly Rohingya people are already suffering horrific abuses from a disproportionate military campaign. More>>

ALSO:

 
 
 
 
 
 
  • Pacific.Scoop
  • Cafe Pacific
  • PMC