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More Than 31 Million People Became Internally Displaced In 2016

An internally displaced girl who fled Raqqa city sits inside a camp in Ain Issa, Raqqa Governorate, Syria, in May.
An internally displaced girl who fled Raqqa city sits inside a camp in Ain Issa, Raqqa Governorate, Syria, in May.

Conflicts, violence, and natural disasters forced more than 31 million people into internal displacement in 2016, a new report says.

The report, released on May 22 by the Internal Displacement Monitoring Centre (IDMC) and the Norwegian Refugee Council (NRC), differentiates between internally displaced persons (IDP) and refugees.

It said IDP is not a legal status because those affected remain under the jurisdiction of their own government and often do not receive additional rights over other citizens.

People who have crossed an international border in search of refuge have a right to legal refugee status, which affords them certain rights and international protection, it added.

“Internally displaced people now outnumber refugees by two to one. It is urgent to put internal displacement back on the global agenda," said Jan Egeland, the NRC secretary general.

The report said more aid was allocated in 2016 to refugee resettlement within donor countries than in the countries dealing with high numbers of IDPs.

“Despite internal displacement being the starting point of many onward journeys, it has been overshadowed by the current global focus on refugees and migrants,” said Alexandra Bilak, the director of IDMC.

“We need to acknowledge that, without the right kind of support and protection, a person internally displaced today may become a refugee, an asylum seeker or an international migrant tomorrow,” she added.

The report said 6.9 million new internal displacements were caused by conflicts. Some 2.6 million of them were in sub-Saharan Africa, while 824,000 were in Syria, 659,000 in Iraq, 653,000 in Afghanistan, and 478,000 in Yemen.

“As of the end of 2016, a total of 40.3 million people were displaced within their own country as a result of conflict and violence, some of whom having been displaced for decades,” the report said.

Disasters displaced some 24 million people last year, with most attributed to “sudden-onset” weather hazards, including floods, storms, and wildfires, it said.