For decades, they were largely ignored and forgotten, but together they probably comprise the world‟s largest group of vulnerable people. Currently, there are an estimated 30 million of them in at least 50 countries living amidst war and persecution. They have little legal or physical protection and a very uncertain future – outcasts in their own countries. Bureaucratically, they are described as IDPs – or „internally displaced persons.‟ In the real world, they are civilians, mostly women and children, who have been forced to abandon their homes because of conflict or persecution to seek safety elsewhere. The idea and the phenomenon of internal displacement are not recent. According to United Nations Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs (OCHA) ,the Greek government argued to the United Nations (UN) General Assembly in 1949 that people displaced internally by war should have the same access to international aid as refugees, even if they did not need international protection. India and Pakistan repeated this argument after partition. Recognition of internal displacement emerged gradually through the late 1980s and became prominent on the international agenda in the 1990s. The chief reasons for this attention were the growing number of conflicts causing internal displacement after the end of the Cold War and an increasingly strict international migration regime. Although the issue of internal displacement has gained international prominence during the last fifteen years, a single definition of the term remains to be agreed upon. internally displaced persons are persons or groups of persons who have been forced or obliged to flee or to leave their homes or places of habitual residence, in particular as a result of or in order to avoid the effects of armed conflict, situations of generalized
violence, violations of human rights or natural or human-made disasters, and who have not crossed an internationally recognized State border.1 While the above stresses two important elements of internal displacement it is important to note that rather than a strict definition, the Guiding Principles offer “a descriptive identification of the category of persons whose needs are the concern of the Guiding Principles”. In this way, the document “intentionally steers toward flexibility rather than legal precision as the words “in particular” indicate that the list of reasons for displacement is not exhaustive. However, as Erin Mooney has pointed out, “global statistics on internal displacement generally count only IDPs uprooted by conflict and human rights violations. Moreover, a recent study has recommended that the IDP concept should be defined even more narrowly, to be limited to persons displaced by violence.” Thus, despite the non-exhaustive reasons of internal displacement, many consider IDPs as those who would be defined as refugees if they were to cross an international border hence the term refugees in all but name is often applied to IDPs. 2
United Nations Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs(OCHA 1999:6) Brookings-Bern Project on Internal Displacement: http://www.brook.edu/idp 1
Concept of internally displaced persons (IDPs) :
When civilians cross an international frontier into a second state in an effort to escape persecution, they are generally given food and shelter by the host country, protected by international laws and legally are classified as refugees. Others in similar circumstances but who, for whatever reason, remain in their own states become IDPs with few, if any, of the safeguards and assistance afforded to refugees. They remain under the „protection‟ of often antagonistic governments or prey to rebel militias.3 They are individuals or groups of people who have been forced to flee their homes to escape armed conflict, generalized violence and human rights abuses. Millions of other civilians who have survived natural disasters such as floods are also...