In­ter­nally dis­placed peo­ple need uni­fied global ac­tion

▶ Re­solv­ing con­flicts could end the mis­ery of those trapped within their own borders

The National - News - - OPINION -

In 2017, al­most 12 mil­lion peo­ple across the world were in­ter­nally dis­placed, trapped within the borders of the state that up­rooted them. A re­port pub­lished by the Nor­we­gian Refugee Coun­cil’s In­ter­nal Dis­place­ment Mon­i­tor­ing Cen­tre re­veals that, in the Mid­dle East, the num­ber of in­ter­nally dis­placed peo­ple (IDPs) nearly dou­bled over the past year to 4.5 mil­lion, mean­ing that some 12,000 peo­ple were dis­placed each day in this re­gion in 2017. There is cer­tainly some­thing deeply dis­turb­ing about be­ing ren­dered home­less in one’s home­land.

The prin­ci­pal site of dis­place­ment is Syria, where the civil war has forced mil­lions to flee their homes. Many have slipped into foreign ter­ri­to­ries. Some have made it to Europe, where they have faced mixed for­tunes. Most are trapped in­side Syria – roam­ing in search of se­cu­rity, but trailed at ev­ery turn by the regime. The coun­try is now home to 6.7 mil­lion IDPs – the largest such pop­u­la­tion in the world. In Iraq, where 730,000 peo­ple were in­ter­nally dis­placed last year, dozens of re­turnees have been killed by ex­plo­sive de­vices left be­hind by ISIS. Sig­nif­i­cant fear still keeps many from go­ing home. Beyond the Mid­dle East, Africa ac­counts for nearly half of the world’s IDPs. Last year alone that fate be­fell 2.2 mil­lion peo­ple in the Demo­cratic Repub­lic of the Congo, who were forced to flee for their lives.

The ex­is­tence of peo­ple who have be­come refugees in their own land is of­ten in­de­scrib­ably mis­er­able. Home­less, they are ex­posed at all times to the forces from which they need pro­tec­tion. Pro­vi­sion of aid is hin­dered by the fact that IDPs of­ten clus­ter in re­mote ar­eas that can only be ac­cessed with the as­sis­tance of state au­thor­i­ties. Too of­ten, as the Syr­ian regime’s siege of East­ern Ghouta at­tests, it is those very au­thor­i­ties that block aid. Refugees in foreign lands can be set­tled and given a fresh start, although too few are. Yet the plight of IDPs calls for con­certed global ac­tion to re­solve fes­ter­ing con­flicts and pro­tect those it up­roots. Their swelling num­bers speak of the world’s fail­ure.

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