When does internal displacement end?

FMR 17

“When does internal displacement end?” is a question frequently posed by policy -makers, practitioners and researchers engaged with the internally displaced, but which lacks a clear answer. Through this feature section of this FMR, we have tapped into the thinking of an array of experts on various different aspects of the subject. The aim is to provide guidance on when displacement ends to UN and other international agencies, as well as governments, NGOs, researchers and, certainly, internally displaced persons themselves.

Erin Mooney

When does internal displacement end? In other words, when, in any particular situation, should internally displaced persons (IDPs) no longer be regarded as such?

Rafael Bonoan

Many of the circumstances that lead to internal displacement are similar or identical to those that cause individuals to develop a "well-founded fear of persecution" and seek international protection as refugees.

Bill Frelick

There is relatively little doubt about when refugee status ends. The 1951 Refugee Convention clearly spells out that refugee status ends when the refugee is no longer in need of protection. The fundamental principle underlying the refugee definition is not movement across a border but protection or the lack thereof from the government of his/her home country.

Guillermo Bettocchi with Raquel Freitas

International efforts to uphold the rights of IDPs are bearing fruit at the normative level as well as in attempts to improve the institutional arrangements. So far, however, there are no agreed criteria nor mechanisms to address the question of when displacement ends.

Walter Kälin

The Guiding Principles on Internal Displacement do not explicitly address the question of when displacement ends, i.e. when these principles no longer apply.

Christophe Beau

Few states in the world have a special protection regime for IDPs offering a specific legal status to assist victims of displacement.

Patricia Weiss Fagen

International concerns and practical attention (including those outlined in the Guiding Principles on Internal Displacement) have been weighted on the side of emergency responses to displacement. No matter how effective they are, however, emergency responses are not solutions.

Michael M Cernea

"A drop reflects the ocean", the old saying goes. This simple question - "When does displacement end?" - similarly reflects an ocean: the ocean of displacement issues. This question sounds simple but it isn't. In fact, it probes the depth and length of the entire involuntary displacement-resettlement continuum.

Susan Martin

Since the early 1970s, conflict in Burundi has caused more than 200,000 Burundians to lose their lives, many to flee abroad and many more to be displaced, some temporarily and some more long term.

Greta Zeender

The case of Rwanda demonstrates significant differences among leading agencies and policy makers working with displaced people in their understanding of displacement and resettlement concepts.

Claudia McGoldrick

Almost one quarter of a million displaced Sierra Leoneans were resettled in their areas of origin by the end of 2002, officially ending the internal displacement crisis in the country and further consolidating recovery after more than a decade of devastating civil war.

Christopher R Duncan

When does an IDP stop being an IDP? In Indonesia the answer was supposed to be: on 31 December 2002. This was the deadline announced in late 2001 when the government released its plan describing how it would solve the 'problem' of the more than one million IDPs spread across the country. (1)

General Articles
Clare Graham

The crisis in Iraq exemplifies the dilemmas inherent in contingency planning that face today's humanitarian community.

Caroline Lambert and Sharon Pickering

This article focuses on domestic violence against women living in camps, highlighting both the potential and the limitations of human rights standards in bringing change to women's lives.

Koenraad Van Brabant

A serious debate has developed in recent years with regard to 'standards' for humanitarian action.

Channe Lindstrom

A largely desert country, the Islamic Republic of Mauritania forms a link between the Arab Maghreb and western sub-Saharan Africa.

Dr Agnes Hurwitz, Ford Foundation Research Fellow at the Refugee Studies Centre
Jeff Crisp Head, Evaluation and Policy Analysis Unit
Andrew Lawday

When displacement ends is a practical concern for agencies charged with helping IDPs. But who can really say when displacement ends? Neither the UN nor governments have been able to agree yet.

Francis M Deng

The differences between the 12 million refugees and the estimated 25 million internally displaced persons (IDPs) around the world as far as the international community is concerned is that the former have crossed international borders while the latter have remained within their countries.


Opinions in FMR do not necessarily reflect the views of the Editors, the Refugee Studies Centre or the University of Oxford.
FMR is an Open Access publication. Users are free to read, download, copy, distribute, print or link to the full texts of articles published in FMR and on the FMR website, as long as the use is for non-commercial purposes and the author and FMR are attributed. Unless otherwise indicated, all articles published in FMR in print and online, and FMR itself, are licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial-NoDerivs (CC BY-NC-ND) licence. Details at www.fmreview.org/copyright.