History of Minelaying
For the last 50 years left wing Non States Armed Groups (NSAGs) in Colombia have been in conflict with the Government, resulting in the use of locally manufactured mines and Improvised Explosive Devices (IEDs), collectively described as “mines” to prevent movement and protect bases. Peace Talks between the government and FARC will hopefully provide the opportunity for survey and mineclearance operations to expand across the country.
The Colombian military laid defensive mines around 35 of their bases which have now been cleared by military engineers. NSAGs and paramilitary organisations used mines in all aspects of their operations and many of these mines and minefields still exist.
Colombia is currently one of the most mine-affected countries in the world, with more than 10,900 recorded deaths and injuries from landmines since 1990.
More than 10,000 potentially Suspect Hazardous Areas (SHAs) exist in Colombia’s IMSMA records, and while it is unlikely all of these still contain active mines, it is widely accepted that Colombia has a major mines problem.
Mines laid by NSAGs are found on routes used by government forces and around illicit crop plantations and schools and houses used as bases in rural areas. In regions that the Colombian military now control these mines are still present and are preventing the civilian population returning and the necessary development taking place.
According to government statistics, there are more than 3.6 million registered Internally Displaced Persons (IDPs) in Colombia, and landmine contamination is a contributory factor preventing these people from returning to their land.
The Colombian government is engaged in peace talks with the FARC guerrillas, and both sides have agreed on a programme to clear rural areas of landmines. If peace is successfully negotiated, the requirement for civilian humanitarian demining in Colombia will increase greatly.
The Colombian Government recognises that many more deminers need to be deployed in Colombia to address the extent of the mines problem. On 18 September 2013 we deployed the first HALO first demining teams in Colombia, with funding from the Governments of the United States and Germany. These teams will be expanded to over 500 deminers to reduce Colombia's landmine casualties, support land restitution, allow displaced communities to return home in safety and to support development programmes.
Meanwhile our survey teams will work in preparation for further mineclearance and in support of the Government of Colombia's Land Restitution programme.
Requirement for Continued Clearance
Mineclearance has been successfully conducted by the military’s mobile EOD teams and their humanitarian mineclearance platoons. There are also reports of NSAGs occasionally clearing mines they have laid at the request of local communities.
The Government of Colombia recognises the requirement for a massive expansion of military clearance assets to 25 platoons and the introduction of 49 civilian platoons to address the mines problem. The HALO Trust has now passed a significant milestone in deploying civilian clearance teams in support of Colombia's Mine Ban Treaty obligations and we look forward to further expanding the support offered by our clearance and survey teams.