As Palestinians commemorated the Al Nakba a day ago – which marks the beginning of one the largest refugee crises in the world -, a new report by the Internal Displacement Monitoring Centre (IDMC) revealed a record 33.3 million people were internally displaced at the end of 2013 due to conflict and violence.
The number of people displaced within their own countries has increased by 4.5 million since 2012, with 63% of the total 33.3 million coming from just five countries: Syria, Colombia, Nigeria, Democratic Republic of Congo and Sudan. The report has included data for Nigeria for the first time and it shows 3.3 million Nigerians have been displaced by the conflict.
Unlike refugees, internally displaced people have not crossed an international border to find sanctuary but have remained in their home countries even if they were forced to flee their homes. Internally displaced people are considered one of the most vulnerable people, as they legally remain under the protection if their government which is often the cause of their flight. They flee for similar reasons as the refugees: armed conflicts, human rights violations, generalized violence.
“The IDMC report reveals a frightening reality of life inside Syria, now the largest internal displacement crisis in the world,” said Jan Egeland, the Secretary General of NRC. “The dramatic increase in forced displacement in 2013 and the fact that the average amount of time people worldwide are living in displacement is now a staggering 17 years, all suggest that something is going terribly wrong in how we are responding and dealing with this issue.”
By the end of 2013, around 8.2 million people were newly displaced, an increase by 24% compared with 2012, and 43% of all the people newly displaced in 2013 were in Syria. The crisis in Central African Republic (CAR) that escalated from March to December, following a coup by the predominantly Muslim armed coalition Séléka, displaced around 935,000 people during the year. Nigeria was strongly affected by the increase in attacks by Islamist group Boko Haram, which became the target of worldwide social media campaign #BringBackOurGirls following the abduction of about 300 high school girls. Counter insurgency operations and ongoing inter-communal violence triggered the displacement of at least 470,500 people in Nigeria, in 2013. New displacements were also reported in Palestine and Yemen.
In the Americas, at least 6.3 million people were internally displaced, by the end of 2013, with the majority from Colombia where the figure now stands at 5.7 million. The main cause of displacement is the country’s protracted conflict.
UN High Commissioner for Refugees António Guterres said people should “be concerned about these numbers and the continuing upwards trend. We have a shared responsibility to act to end this massive suffering. Immediate protection and assistance for the internally displaced is a humanitarian imperative.” UNHCR works closely with the Norwegian Refugee Council and the IDMC. The current report is based on data provided by governments, NGO partners and UN agencies, and it documents the figures in 5 regions and in 60 countries and territories affected by war. (See full report)