Causes and impact of displacement

Causes of Displacement in the International Scenario

i) Internally Displaced Persons

One of the major challenges today is the growth in the number of internally displaced persons (IDPs) worldwide. While there are no official definitions of an internally displaced person, the Guiding Principles on Internal Displacement set by of Office for the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR) holds internally displaced persons to be ”persons or groups of persons who have been forced to flee, or leave, their homes or places of habitual residence as a result of armed conflict, internal strife, and habitual violations of human rights, as well as natural or man-made disasters involving one or more of these elements, and who have not crossed an internationally recognised state border”.
Accordingly, the internally displaced are people who are forced to flee their homes, often for the very same reasons as refugees – war, civil conflict, political strife, and gross human rights abuse – but who remain within their own country and do not cross an international border. They are therefore not eligible for protection under the same international system as refugees. Also, there is no single international body entrusted with their protection and assistance. Estimates on the number of IDP estimates are often very rough, and they tend to differ greatly in terms of the source (governments, international agencies, nongovernmental organisations). This is partly because IDP movements, in contrast to forced migration, typically involve short distances and often short time frames. In addition, internal movements are much less recorded than international movements. One reason is that the inherent interest of a receiving country in who is entering is absent in the case of internal movements, which are free of restrictions and subject to fewer administrative hurdles. In addition, considering that they are still living in the country where they have been persecuted, the internally displaced may be less willing to register than those who enjoy the protection of their asylum country.

ii) Environmental Displacement

This category includes people displaced by environmental change (desertification, deforestation, land degradation, water pollution or inundation), by natural disasters (floods, volcanoes, landslides, earthquakes), and by man-made disasters (industrial accidents, radioactivity). A 1995 report claimed that there were at least 25 million environmental refugees, that the number could double by 2010 and that as many as 200 million people may eventually be at risk of displacement.

Refugee experts reject such apocalyptic visions and some argue that there are no environmental refugees as such. While environmental factors do play a part in forced migration, displacements due to environmental factors are always closely linked to other factors, such as social and ethnic conflict, weak states, inequitable distribution of resources and abuse of human rights. Thus it is difficult to define who is affected by an environmental or disaster , or to quantify this category in any meaningful way. The emphasis on environmental factors can be a distraction from central issues of development, inequality and conflict resolution.

iii) Disaster Displacement

This category covers people forced to move by natural disasters (floods, hurricanes, volcanoes, earthquakes, landslides) or disasters resulting from human activities (industrial accidents, environmental pollution, radioactive emissions).

Displacement by natural disasters has become increasingly significant to humanitarian agencies, following the great loss of life and destruction caused by the Asian Tsunami of 26 December 2004, and the by the hurricanes in the USA in September 2005. Problems of humanitarian assistance in such major emergencies are in many ways similar to those caused by conflicts, and often the same relief organizations are involved The increasing frequency of extreme natural events may be due to global warming, and is thus to some extent the result of human behaviour.

iv) People-trafficking

The trafficking of women and children for the sex industry occurs all over the world. Women in war zones are forced into sex slavery by combatant forces, or sold to international gangs. It is important to distinguish between peopletrafficking and people-smuggling. People who wish to migrate to a country to which they cannot gain legal admission may use the services of people-smuggling organizations. This applies particularly to low-skilled persons seeking work in the informal sector in developed countries. Smuggled migrants decide voluntarily to pay a fee to smugglers for a service. They participate in a commercial transaction – albeit on unequal terms, which may lead them into debtbondage. By contrast, the movement of trafficked persons is based on deception and coercion and is for the purpose of exploitation. The profit in trafficking comes not from the movement but from the sale of a trafficked person’s sexual services or labour in the country of destination. Most smuggled migrants are men. Most trafficked persons are women and children