GETTING MINES OUT OF THE GROUND, FOR GOOD.

For the last 50 years left wing Non States Armed Groups (NSAGs) have been in conflict with the Government.

This has resulted in the use of locally manufactured mines and Improvised Explosive Devices (IEDs), collectively described as “mines” to prevent movement and protect bases.

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. Many of these mines and minefields still exist.

Colombia is currently one of the most mine-affected countries in the world, with more than 10,000 recorded deaths and injuries from landmines since 1990.

In many cases, landmine contamination prevents the return of IDPs (Internally Displaced Persons) to their land. According to government statistics, there are more than 3.6 million registered IDPs in Colombia, a figure second only to Sudan. The new Victims Law aims to compensate victims of the Colombian conflict and lays out plans to return 3,000,000ha of land to those who have been displaced.

Although the conflict is ongoing, in August 2012 the Colombian government and FARC signed an agreement outlining negotiations for peace. In October 2012, the Colombian government and FARC began their first direct negotiations for a decade in Norway. If peace is successfully negotiated, the requirement for civilian humanitarian demining in Colombia will increase greatly. HALO is well placed to respond to the landmine problem.

Whilst over 10,000 potentially Suspect Hazardous Areas (SHAs) exist in Colombia’s IMSMA records, it is unlikely all of these still contain active mines.

However it is widely accepted that Colombia has a major mines problem:

“Colombia continues to have the world's highest increase in accidents with anti-personnel mines and UXO (unexploded ordnance), which are affecting more and more civilians” - ECHO Colombia 2009

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.

The Colombian Government recognises that many more deminers need to be deployed in Colombia to address the extent of the mines problem.

On September 18, 2013 HALO deployed its first demining teams with funding from the Governments of the United States and Germany. It is planned to expand these teams to over 500 deminers in order to help reduce Colombia's landmine casualties in the future, allow displaced communities to return home in safety and support development programs.

Meanwhile HALO's survey teams currently funded by the US, Germany and EC (through UNMAS) will work in preparation for further mineclearance and in support of the Government of Colombia's Land Restitution program.

Mineclearance to date 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 looks forward to further expanding the support offered by our clearance and survey teams.