More than 14,000 minors have been recruited by illegal armed groups in Colombia since 2002, most of them by the demobilized FARC guerrillas and by the National Liberation Army (ELN), official sources reported Wednesday.
“From 2002 to today, about 14,200 Colombian children and adolescents have been recruited. Of these, some 5,503 children have been officially disengaged through the Office of the High Commissioner for Peace (OACP),” he said Wednesday. Head of this body, Miguel Ceballos, to journalists.
In addition “about 8,700 were recruited as children,” said Ceballos, who holds the position of High Commissioner for Peace.
The FARC was the guerrillas that recruited the most children, about 3,000, while the ELN co-opted 1,000.
The new data was released during the presentation of the “Hands-on-work” campaign, which is being promoted by the Colombian government to prevent the recruitment of minors by illegal armed groups.
For this purpose, he wants to strengthen families and prevent drug use, one of the usual ways to recruit young people.
The campaign begins on the international day of the “Red Hands”, which celebrates the signing of the international protocol for the protection of the rights of children and adolescents.
Following the signing of peace with the FARC, in November 2016, the presence of other armed structures has particularly affected children.
In the last three years, the people responsible for the forced recruitment of minors were the ELN, the People’s Liberation Army (EPL) – considered by the government to be a drug gang -, the FARC dissidents and the paramilitary heir bands.
“Threats, false promises of better livelihoods, the emergence of schools and the absence or weak presence of the Government has made thousands of children and adolescents become part of the ranks of these armed groups,” he warned. January the Observatory for the Protection of the Rights and Welfare of children and adolescents (OPROB).
The recruitment of children mainly affects regions such as the departments of Chocó, Putumayo or Córdoba, according to Commissioner Ceballos.
It also affects the Lower Cauca area, in the department of Antioquia, as well as the Catatumbo region, bordering Venezuela.
ABOUT ELN STOP
On the 72-hour “armed strike” announced by the ELN last Saturday, Ceballos reiterated that “Colombia must continue to demand that this guerrilla leave the kidnapping and criminal actions, among which is the recruitment of minors.”
The “armed strike”, in which the guerrillas usually restrict the movement of vehicles on roads and the mobility of people, will go from 6.00 local time (11.00 GMT) on Friday, February 14 until the same time on Monday 17.