Internally displaced persons
UNHCR's mandate is to protect refugees – people who cannot rely on the protection of their own government, and who have crossed an international border in the process of fleeing persecution, war or human rights abuse. Many other people are also forced to flee these dangers, but they either cannot or do not wish to cross an international border. They are internally displaced within the borders of their own country. Legally, they fall under the sovereignty of their own government, even though that government may not be able or willing to protect them.
In recent years, because of its expertise with emergency mass movements of people, UNHCR has been involved in programs for internally displaced people as well as for refugees. The agency can only act to help these people at the request of the U.N. Secretary General or a competent principal organ of the United Nations, and with the consent of the government of the country involved.
It is difficult to determine the number of people living in interior exile within their own country. Estimates usually place them at least 30 million. Today, of the 22.4 million people presently under UNHCR responsibility worldwide, nearly 6 million are internally displaced.
UNHCR and the
internally displaced: questions and answers - a distillation of
the issues currently confronting UNHCR, taken from . . .
"Internally Displaced Persons: The Role of the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees" A UNHCR position paper which is being discussed with other organisations, in the context of the overall review of protection of and assistance to IDPs. (March 2000)
IDPs: The Hot Issue for a New Millennium (Refugees Magazine Issue 117, winter 1999)
Map: Major situations of internal displacement worldwide From "The State of the World's Refugees 1997-98 - A Humanitarian Agenda", published in December 1997
"Internal Conflict and Displacement" (Chapter 3, "The State of the World's Refugees 1997-98 - A Humanitarian Agenda", December 1997)
A difficult problem for UNHCR (108, II - 1997)
As many as one million people have been internally displaced in Afghanistan in the last five years. This IDP population poses a tricky dilemma for UNHCR
lost teenager (107, I - 1997)
action on behalf of internally displaced people (The State of
The World's Refugees - In Search of Solutions, 1995)
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