Save the Children Colombia called on the Government to take urgent measures and define an action plan to combat forced recruitment.
There is a worrying increase in cases of forced recruitment of girls, boys and adolescents in the department of Cauca. In 2021, 46 cases were reported, 164 during 2022 and 140 so far in 2023, according to what was reported in the Infographic of the Departmental Protection Committee of Cauca, led by the Ombudsman’s Office. At this time, another possible case that occurred on Friday, August 25 in the municipality of Corinto, where a young man disappeared after leaving school, is being investigated.
Save the Children Colombia warned about this serious situation, of which girls, boys, adolescents and young people are being victims of recruitment, use and use by armed groups outside the law, which must be addressed urgently and immediately by the National Government.
According to the Search Unit for Persons Reported as Missing, which has established a line of investigation related to the recruitment of minors under 18 years of age, 15,696 search requests have been received, of which 1,871 are to search for children and adolescents. who, according to the figures, were recruited and subsequently disappeared in the context of the armed conflict.
The international organization rejects any action that puts the lives of girls, boys, adolescents and young people in Colombia at risk and urges the authorities to define a work plan and coordinate actions from the national, departmental and municipal levels, with emphasis on the 10 municipalities (Caloto, Torbio, Corinth, Paez, Caldono, El Tambo, Inza, Algeria, Suarez and Morales) with a greater number of recruitment cases, to address this problem and to guarantee that as many boys, girls and young people who have been victims return to their homes, advancing in the pertinent investigations and in the active search for the missing, in coordination with the community, indigenous councils and all actors who can support this enormous work.
Likewise, Save the Children urges families, communities and educational institutions to report these events to the authorities. It is essential to raise the voices of so many children, adolescents and young people who have been affected and activate the relevant protection routes to address and prevent the repetition of these cases.
“Girls, boys, adolescents and young people cannot continue disappearing. If you know a victim of this situation, you can activate the protection routes by approaching the Ombudsman of your municipality, the Ombudsman’s Office, the Prosecutor’s Office, the administrative authority of the territory, as well as the Police headquarters. Lines 122 of the Attorney General’s Office and 123 of the National Police will also be available for this purpose, where complaints can be made, in case there are risks when approaching a territorial office. There are also civil society organizations that can accompany and support them in these processes, as is our case,” indicated the executive director of the Save the Children Colombia Foundation, María Paula Martínez.
Last year alone, according to figures from the National Institute of Legal Medicine, 34% of the 4,680 missing people registered in the country (1,579) were children and adolescents. The age of the majority of these cases was between 15 and 17 years old, which constitutes a real challenge since the competence when they turn 18 passes from one authority to another, making coordination problems even more difficult, for example, between the Police. of Childhood and Adolescence, the Sijin and the Prosecutor’s Office.