There are 40 million internally displaced people (IDP) - we must do more to protect them
April 30, 2018
I took part in a debate in Westminster last week about the rising numbers of internally displaced people (IDPs).
These are people who have been forced out of their home areas, usually because of conflict, environmental events or fear of discrimination, but remain within the borders of their nation. They are not therefore refugees.
There are now nearly twice as many IDPs as refugees, some 40m globally compared to 22.5m refugees. IDPs receive much less protection than refugees. There are not the same protections under the United Nations which guarantees refugees rights to move to a safe haven or to return home when free from danger.
IDPs are often the most vulnerable of persons. On a visit to Southern Sudan, I remember meeting a group of IDPs who felt threatened because all sides in the dreadful conflict did not trust them. They had remained in situ under the previous regime and were often referred to as fifth columnists by the new government despite earlier also being marginalised.
In the debate I explained that IDPs face repercussions because, instead of being subject to international protection as refugees, they are usually put under the control of nationally-run police and military.
The key reason for the debate was to push the British government into adopting a much clearer strategy with regard to IDPs.
There was cross-party support for this and the Minister who responded to the debate was largely supportive of this plea. Much of the groundwork for the debate was undertaken by Christian Aid which has highlighted the plight of IDPs. Using evidence Syria, Myanmar, the Democratic Republic of Congo and elsewhere, Christian Aid documented the numbers of IDPs, the desperate state they found themselves in, and why the government ought to prioritise this in terms of policy and foreign aid.
Whatever transpires, it is vital that we recognise that the predicament of IDPs and, while we cannot go around interfering in the internal workings of other countries, the UK must use its influence to highlight where people are being mistreated. That is not only the role of government and parliament but also caring individuals who realise our obligation to those much less fortunate than ourselves.