Internally Displaced Persons

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There is no commonly accepted legal definition on displaced people or internally displaced people (IDP) within international law. In the preamble of the “Guiding principles on internal displacement” (guiding principles) presented to United Nations Commission on Human Rights in April of 1998, internally displaced people is defined as; "persons or groups of persons who have been forced or obliged to flee or to leave their homes or places of habitual residence, in particular as a result of or in order to avoid the effects of armed conflict, situations of generalised violence, violations of human rights or natural or human-made disasters, and who have not crossed an internationally recognised State border."”[1].


The term includes the criteria of the definition of refugee; nonetheless it is separated in one significant aspect. The definition of refugees implies people outside their country of origin; however this condition does not apply for the definition of internally displaced people. Another point to be emphasized is that this displacement has to be realized involuntarily and by forcing reasons.


Internally displaced persons is a recently utilized term and it has not been included in any international conventions other then unbinding guiding principles. The main aspect bringing this term to the world’s agenda is civil wars. Particularly the civil wars in Africa entailed lack of governance and resulted in mass population movements. For example; following the conflicts of Sudan in the year of 2003, approximately 2 millions people were displaced and they were forced to live at camps. A large percentage of this 2 million people (approximately 1,5 million people) sustain their living in regions under control of opposing forces. Although these people who are living very close to the border of the Republic of Chad do not fall under the definition of refugee according to the international law; the magnitude of the problem necessitates international protection.


It is estimated that 27 million people worldwide were displaced in the year of 2007 and approximately half of these people -12,7 million people- live in Africa[2]. According to the research supported by Prime Ministry State Planning Organization and executed by Hacettepe University Institute of Population Studies; it is estimated that 950.000-1.200.000 people are internally displace within Turkey[3].


Some countries implemented legal amendments related to internally displaced people and included them in their legislation. Some of these countries are; Azerbaijan, Bosnia Herzegovina, Colombia, Georgia and Russia which have experienced long term large population movements[4]. These amendments and the term of “IDP status” which have not yet been acknowledged by international law set forth the social, economical and legal rights to these people and function as a foundation for the long term solutions to their problems.


  1. Guiding principles on internal displacement, Preamble; 2nd paragraph; UNHCR
  2. The Internal Displacement Monitoring Centre (IDMC) 2007 Global Overview Report ; http://www.internal-displacement.org/8025708F004BE3B1/(httpInfoFiles)/BD8316FAB5984142C125742E0033180B
  3. Survey on Migration and Displaced Population, Research Report of Hacettepe University Institute on Population Studies; http://www.hips.hacettepe.edu.tr/tgyona/TGYONA_rapor.pdf
  4. The Internal Displacement Monitoring Centre (IDMC); http://www.internal-displacement.org/8025708F004D404D/(httpPages)/CC32D8C34EF93C88802570F800517610?OpenDocument


Source: Orcun Ulusoy; 2008; Sorularla İnsan Hakları; İnsan Hakları Gündemi Derneği; Turkish


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