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Internaly displaced persons (IDPs) issues

IDPs ('internally displaced persons') are individuals or groups of people who have been forced to flee their homes to escape armed conflict, generalized violence and human rights abuses. The United Nations estimates that, in all, there are around 24.5 million IDPs in 52 countries, half of them in Africa. UNHCR currently helps care for 12.8 million people from this group, in addition to some 9.9 million refugees.

In real life, IDPs are civilians –mostly women and children – who have been forced to abandon their homes because of conflict or persecution. As outcasts in their own lands, they often have very limited legal or physical protection and face an uncertain future.

Millions more displaced persons are assigned to a separate category – these are those victims of natural disasters such as earthquakes and floods, people who have been impelled to leave their homes because of development projects, or those fleeing conflict zones or human rights violations, who cross an international frontier into another country. After crossing an international border, such persons are classified as ‘refugees’. For decades refugees tended to be forgotten or ignored, but nowadays they probably form the single largest group of DPs and are protected by a strong body of international law. They are also often given food and shelter. However, those who remain inside their home countries – even if they have fled for similar or identical reasons – are instead classified as IDPs, and are often unable to access the safeguards and assistance afforded to refugees. Legally, they remain under the ‘protection’ of their own government – even though that same government may be the cause of their flight, or else has shown it is incapable of saving its citizens from marauding rebel groups or generalized violence.