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Internally displaced person
An internally displaced person (IDP) is someone who has been forced to leave their home for reasons such as religious or political persecution or war, but has not crossed an international border. The term is a subset of the more general displaced person. There is no legal definition of IDP, as there is for refugee, but the thumbnail rule is that if the person in question would be eligible for refugee status if he or she crossed an international border then the IDP label is applicable. IDPs are not technically refugees because they have not crossed an international border, but are sometimes casually referred to as refugees.
There are currently nearly 20 million IDPs worldwide, roughly twice the total number of refugees. Internally displaced persons do not have a specific international legal instrument that applies to them as do refugees, because any attempt by an outside body to tell a nation how it should treat its own citizens has been seen as a violation of the principle of national sovereignty. This principle has come under pressure in recent years by those who feel a moral imperative to stop gross abuse of citizens by their governments. The most notable recent example was the use by the United States of mistreatment by the Iraqi government of its own population as a secondary excuse for the 2003 invasion of Iraq.
The United Nations recently agreed on non-binding Guiding Principles on Internal Displacement based on the refugee instruments. Nevertheless, there is no dedicated UN agency to deal with IDPs. This has led the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees to act as ad hoc lead on IDP matters. As a result, it has been criticized for treating IDPs as less important adjuncts to their core mission to assist refugees.
Countries with Significant IDP Populations
- Colombia due to the war between the government, FARC, the AUC and other armed groups
- The Democratic Republic of Congo due to ongoing war
- Iraq due to political persecution and civil conflict under Saddam Hussein and the current instability
- Sudan due to civil conflicts in the South and Darfur in the west
- The Guiding Principles on Internal Displacement
- Website of the UN Representative of the Secretary-General on internally displaced persons
- The Global IDP Database is perhaps the most comprehensive and up-to-date resource on IDPs worlwide
- The IDP Project jointly run by the Brookings Institution and the JHU School of Advanced International Studies
- Forced Migration Reviewmagazine, published in four languages, with regular IDP news
- BBC News Online - World 'forgets' internal refugees
- Photojournalist's Account - Images of displacement in Sudan
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