Colombia faces a harsh reality: in the year 2023, more than 180 children and teenagers were victims of forced recruitment by rebels and drug traffickersaccording to a report revealed by the Ombudsman’s Office.
The Ombudsman’s Office reported that a total of 184 cases recruitment, being 110 children and adolescents and 74 girls and adolescents. It is alarming to note that 68.4% of these minors came from indigenous communities, who are the most vulnerable to this type of crime.
The ages of the childhoods recruited ranged from 9 and 17 yearshighlighting that the majority of cases were in the range of 14 to 17 years. The most affected departments were Cauca, Norte de Santander, Nariño, Putumayo, Arauca, Valle del Cauca and Caquetá.
According to the report, the main responsibilities of recruitment fell to the dissidents of the FARC, with 91.1%, followed by the ELN with 7%, and a small percentage attributed to other groups. This situation has led the Ombudsman’s Office to recommend to the National Government the implementation of a specialized protocol to protect the rights of minors.
The Ombudsman’s Office warns that these figures may not reflect the complete reality due to under-reporting.. The Colombian Family Welfare Institute (ICBF) attended to 196 cases of children recruited in 2023. In addition, the Missing Persons Search Unit (UBPD) revealed having received 3,198 tracking requests missing children during the conflict.
The Colombian president, Gustavo Petro, has opted for negotiated solutions to end the decades-long internal conflict. However, the situation of the recruited children remains a latent concern in the country.
Sadly, the social, economic and political conditions of Colombia have created a humanitarian crisis in which the forced recruitment of children and adolescents by armed groups and the drug trafficking continues to be a harsh reality.