August 20, 2002

Violence, economy force Colombians to migrate

BOGOTA, Colombia (AP) --Millions of Colombians flee their homes or emigrate
because of economic struggles and violence related to the nation's 38-year civil war,
the International Migration Organization reported.

At least 1.2 million Colombians have left the country over the last five years, Diego
Beltran, the head of the organization's mission in Colombia, said Monday. Most head
for neighboring countries such as Venezuela and Ecuador, while others go as far as
the United States, Spain and Germany.

Up to 2 million others are displaced within Colombia, Beltran said.

More than 40 million people live in Colombia. The country's civil war pits left-wing
guerrillas against the government and illegal paramilitary groups.

The International Migration Organization has established seven centers in Colombia
to help displaced people. The group is opening two new centers, and plans to spend
about $19 million on projects in the country over the next two years.

 Copyright 2002 The Associated Press.