Sunday, April 20, 2008

UNHCR calls on Colombia to return land to displaced people

BOGOTA, April 18 (Xinhua) -- The United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR) Friday called on the Colombian government to resume the process of returning land to displaced people.

UNHCR's representative in Colombia Gustavo Valdivieso told reporters that the UNHCR understood why the country suspended the devolution process, but urged the government to identify land to be confiscated from the armed groups and give it to the displaced.

"We hope the land can be identified and handed over to as many displaced people as possible," said Valdivieso.

Meanwhile, Colombia's Agriculture Minister Andres Arias said the United Self-Defense (AUC), a paramilitary group, must return the land it took from indigenous people in rural areas.

The AUC paramilitaries had only pretended to return the land but the assets actually still belonged to them, said Arias.

Valdivieso said at least 6 million hectares in Colombia were occupied by paramilitaries, forcing inhabitants to abandon them or sell them at low prices.

Colombia has the second largest number of displaced people following Sudan, recent United Nations reports have shown

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