Forced displacement

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Displaced persons in 2017[1]
Total population
65.6 million[2]
Regions with significant populations
Refugees17.187 million
IDPs36.627 million
Asylum seekers2.826 million
People in refugee-like situation803,134
Deportees to Siberia by Kazimierz Alchimowicz (1894), National Museum in Warsaw, illustrating the torment of Polish Siberian deportees, patriots from the Russian zone of partitioned Poland in the period following the collapse of the January Uprising.
General deportation currents of the dekulakization 1930–1931

Forced displacement (also forced migration/immigration) is the involuntary or coerced movement of a person or people away from their home or home region, resulting from a variety of external causes including natural disasters, violence, and persecution. Specific examples may include droughts, civil wars, and population transfer, forcing populations to relocate or flee to another country. A person or people experiencing forced displacement may be referred to, among other terms, as: "forced immigrant," "displaced person/persons" (DP), or, if within the same country, "internally displaced person/persons" (IDP). While some displaced persons may be considered refugees, the terms specifically refers to displaced persons receiving legally-defined protections recognized by countries and/or international organizations.

Currently, forced displacement continues gaining attention in international discussions and policy making, partly resulting from a greater ease of travel, increased discussion surrounding international human rights protections, and greater consideration to the impacts of forced migration on other regions. Various international, regional, and local organizations continue working towards developing and implementing approaches to both prevent and mitigate forced migration's impact on areas of origin and destination.[3][4][5] Additionally, some collaboration efforts seek to define the prosecution of those causing forced migration.[6][6] Approximately over 60 million people may be considered forcibly displaced since the onset of the 21st century, with the majority coming from the Global South.[7]

Definitions[edit]

Various governments, NGOs, and international organizations have defined forced displacement, generally agreed upon as the forced removal/relocation of people from their environment (and associated connections to said environment) due to a variety of circumstances. The concept also envelopes demographic movements, such as flight (from fleeing), evacuation, and resettlement. Although a rising phenomenon, IDPs face uncertain classification, owing in part to gaps in data due to state sovereignty and overall visibility.[8]

  • The International Organization for Migration defines a forced migrant as any person migrating to "escape persecution, conflict, repression, natural and human-made disasters, ecological degradation, or other situations that endanger their lives, freedom or livelihood".[9]
  • According to UNESCO, forced displacement is "the forced movement of people from their locality or environment and occupational activities," with its leading cause being armed conflict.[10]
  • Unlike other definitions, researcher and professor Alden Speare stated the following regarding forced migration:

In essence, according to Speare, movement under even immediate threat to life contains a voluntary element as long as an option exists for escape to another region, for going into hiding, or attempting to avoid persecution. This viewpoint has come under scrutiny when considering direct and indirect factors which may leave migrants with little to no choice in their decisions, such as imminent threats to life and livelihood.[11]

History of the term[edit]

The term displaced person (DP) was first widely used during World War II, following the subsequent refugee outflows from Eastern Europe.[12] In this context, DP specifically referred to an individual removed from their native country as a refugee, prisoner or a slave laborer. Most war victims, political refugees, and DPs of the immediate post-Second World War period were Ukrainians, Poles, other Slavs, and citizens of the Baltic states (Lithuanians, Latvians, and Estonians) who refused to return to Soviet-dominated Eastern Europe. A.J. Jaffe claimed that the term was originally coined by Eugene M. Kulischer.[13] The meaning has significantly broadened in the past half-century. The term "Refugee Studies" denotes the academic discipline or field of study covering the study of refugees and their experience seeking refuge, including the causes of their displacement and ability to find refuge.[14] Several categories of individuals are included in this field, labeled as follows: 'Refugee’; ‘expellee’; ‘exile’; ‘displaced person’; ‘internally displaced person (IDP)’; ‘economic refugees’; ‘humanitarian refugee’; ‘stateless person’; ‘tsunami refugee’; ‘development refugee’; ‘environmental refugee’; ‘government assisted refugee (GAR)’ etc.[14]

Distinction between displaced persons and refugees[edit]

  • If the displaced person has crossed an international border and falls under one of the relevant international legal instruments, they may become a refugee.[15] Although commonly used as a synonym for a displaced person, the term "refugee" refers specifically to a legally-recognized status that has access to specific legal protections. Loose application of "refugee" may cause confusion between the general descriptive class of anyone displaced from their home and those who can legally be defined as refugees. Some forced migrants may, due to their status, or the countries legal system, be unable to apply for asylum in the country they fled to, preventing them from seeking asylum and the possibility of attaining refugee status. As these terms require legal recognition, they cannot be protected if the required frameworks are not present.
  • Forced migrants are always either IDPs or displaced people, as both of these terms do not require a legal framework and the fact that they left their homes is sufficient. The distinction between the terms displaced person and forced migrant is minor, however, the term displaced person has an important historic context (e.g. World War II).
  • A displaced person crossing an international border without permission from the country they are entering or without subsequently applying for asylum may be considered an illegal immigrant.
  • A displaced person who left their home because of political persecution or violence, but did not cross an international border, commonly falls into the looser category of internally displaced person (IDP), subject to more tenuous international protection. In 1998, the UN Commission on Human Rights published the Guiding Principles, defining internally displaced people as:
  • A migrant who fled their home because of economic hardship is an economic migrant and strictly speaking not a displaced person.

Bogumil Terminski distinguishes two general categories of displacement:

  • Displacement of risk: mostly conflict-induced displacement, deportations and disaster-induced displacement.
  • Displacement of adaptation: associated with voluntary migration, development-induced displacement and environmentally-induced displacement.[16]

Causes and examples[edit]

Natural causes[edit]

Forced displacement may result from natural disasters and their subsequent impact on infrastructure, food and water access, and local/regional economies. Displacement may be temporary or permanent, depending on the scope of the disaster and the area's recovery capabilities. Climate change is increasing the frequency of major disasters, placing a greater number of populations in potential situations of forced displacement.[17][18] Crop failures due to blight and/or pests fall within this category, affecting access to food and potentially leading to the displacement of people in the affected area. Additionally, the term environmental refugee has recently represented people who are forced to leave their traditional habitat because of environmental factors which negatively impact their livelihood, or even environmental disruption i.e. biological, physical or chemical change in ecosystem.[19] Migration can also occur as a result of slow-onset climate change, such as desertification or sea-level rise, of deforestation or land degradation.

Examples of natural disaster-induced displacement[edit]

  • 2004 Indian Ocean Tsunami: Resulting from a 9.1 earthquake off the coast of North Sumatra, the Indian Ocean Tsunami claimed over 227,898 lives, heavily damaging coastlines throughout the Indian Ocean.[20] As a result, over 1.7 million people were displaced, mostly from Indonesia, Sri Lanka, and India.[21]
  • 2005 Hurricane Katrina: Striking New Orleans, Louisiana in late August 2005, Hurricane Katrina inflicted approximately $125 billion USD in damages, standing as one of the costliest storms in United States history.[22] As a result of the damage inflicted by Katrina, over one million people were internally displaced. One month after the disaster, over 600,000 remained displaced. Immediately following the disaster, New Orleans lost approximately half of its population, with many residents displaced to cities such as Houston, Dallas, Baton Rouge, and Atlanta. According to numerous studies, displacement disproportionally impacted Louisiana's poorer populations, specifically African Americans.[23][24]
  • 2011 East African Drought: Failed rains in Somalia, Kenya, and Ethiopia led to high livestock and crop losses, driving majority pastoralist populations to surrounding areas in search of accessible food and water.[25] In addition to seeking food and water, local populations' migration was motivated by an inability to maintain traditional lifestyles.[17] According to researchers, although partly influenced by local armed conflict, the East African Drought stands as an example of climate change impacts.

Examples of crop failure-induced displacement[edit]

  • Irish Potato Famine: Between 1845-1849, a potato blight struck Ireland, whose poor population mostly depended on potato harvests. Over one million perished from subsequent famine and disease, and another million fled the country, reducing the overall Irish population by almost one quarter.[26]

Man-made causes[edit]

Man-made displacement describes forced displacement caused by political entities, criminal organizations, conflicts, man-made environmental disasters, development, etc. Although impacts of natural disasters and blights/pests may be exacerbated by human mismanagement, man-made causes refer specifically to those initiated by humans. According to UNESCO, armed conflict stands as the most common cause behind forced displacement, reinforced by regional studies citing political and armed conflict as the largest attributing factors to migrant outflows from Latin America, Africa, and Asia.[10][27][28][29]

Examples of criminal-induced displacement[edit]

  • Displacement in Mexico due to cartel violence: Throughout Mexico, drug cartel, paramilitary, and self-defense group violence drives internal and external displacement.[30][29] According to a comprehensive, mixed methodology study by Salazar and Álvarez Lobato, families fled their homes as a means of survival, hoping to escape homicide, extortion, and potential kidnapping. Using a collection of available data and existing studies, the total number of displaced persons between 2006-2012 was approximately 740 million.[31]
  • Displacement in Central America due to cartel/gang violence: A major factor behind US immigrant crises in the early 21st century (such as the 2014 immigrant crisis), rampant gang violence in the Northern Triangle, combined with corruption and low economic opportunities, has forced many to flee their country in pursuit of stability and greater opportunity. Homicide rates in countries such as El Salvador and Honduras reached some of the highest in the world, with El Salvador peaking at 103 homicides per 100,000 people.[32] Contributing factors include extortion, territorial disputes, and forced gang recruitment, resulting in some estimates of approximately 500,000 people displaced annually.[32][33][34]
  • Displacement in Colombia due to conflict and drug-related violence: According to researchers Mojica and Eugenia, Medellín, Colombia around 2013 exemplified crime and violence-induced forced displacement, standing as one of the most popular destinations for IDPs while also producing IDPs of its own. Rural citizens fled from organized criminal violence, with the majority pointing to direct threats as the main driving force, settling in Medellín in pursuit of safety and greater opportunity. Within Medellín, various armed groups battled for territorial control, forcing perceived opponents from their homes and pressuring residents to abandon their livelihoods, among other methods. All in all, criminal violence forced Colombians to abandon their possessions, way of life, and social ties in pursuit of safety.[35]

Examples of conflict-induced displacement[edit]

  • Vietnam War: Throughout the Vietnam War and in the years proceeding it, many populations were forced out of Vietnam and the surrounding countries as a result of armed conflict and/or persecution by their governments, such as the Socialist Republic of Vietnam. This event is referred to as the Indochina Refugee Crisis, with millions displaced across Asia, Australia, Europe, and North America.[36][37]
  • Salvadoran Civil War: Throughout and after the 12-year conflict between the Salvadoran government and the FMLN, Salvadorans faced forced displacement as a result of combat, persecution, and deteriorating quality of life/access to socioeconomic opportunities. Overall, one in four Salvadorans were internally and externally displaced (over one million people).[38][39]

Examples of environmental disaster-induced displacement[edit]

  • 2019 Amazon Rainforest Wildfires: Although man-made fires are a normal part of Amazonian agriculture, the 2019 dry season saw an internationally noted increase in their rate of occurrence. The rapidly spreading fires, combined with efforts from agricultural and logging companies, has forced Brazil's indigenous populations off their native lands.[40][41]
  • Chernobyl Nuclear Disaster: A nuclear meltdown on April 26, 1986 near Pripyat, Ukraine contaminated the city and surrounding areas with harmful levels of radiation, forcing the displacement of over 100,000 people.[42]

Other human-driven displacement[edit]

  • Human trafficking/smuggling: Migrants displaced through deception or coercion with purpose of their exploitation fall under this category. Due to its clandestine nature, the data on such type of forced migration are limited. A disparity also exists between the data for male trafficking (such as for labor in agriculture, construction etc.) and female trafficking (such as for sex work or domestic service), with more data available for males. The International Labour Organization considers trafficking an offense against labor protection, denying companies from leveraging migrants as a labor resource. ILO's Multilateral Framework includes principle no. 11, recommending that "Governments should formulate and implement, in consultation with the social partners, measures to prevent abusive practices, migrant smuggling and people trafficking; they should also work towards preventing irregular labor migration."
  • Slavery: Historically, slavery has led to the displacement of individuals for forced labor, with the Middle Passage of the 15th through 19th century Atlantic slave trade standing as a notable example. Of the 20 million Africans captured for the trade, half died in their forced march to the African coast, and another ten to twenty percent died on slave ships carrying them from Africa to the Americas.[43]
  • Ethnic cleansing: The systematic forced removal of ethnic or religious groups from a given territory by a more powerful ethnic group, with the intent of making it ethnically homogeneous. Examples include the Catholic removal of European Protestants (e.g. Salzburg Protestants) during the 16th through 19th centuries during the counter-Reformation and the cleansing of Jewish people and other ethnic minorities during the Holocaust.
  • If the displaced person was forced out their home because of economically driven projects, such as the Three Gorges Dam in China and other examples in India, the situation is referred to as development-induced displacement.

Conditions[edit]

In most instances of forced migration across borders, migrants do not possess the required documentation for legal travel. Displaced persons are often forced to place their lives at risk, travel in inhumane conditions, and may be exposed to exploitation and abuse. These risk factors may increase through the involvement of smugglers and human traffickers, who may exploit them for illegal activities such as drug/weapons trafficking, forced labor, or sex work.[44] The states where migrants seek protection may consider them a threat to national security.[45] Displaced persons risk greater poverty than before displacement, financial vulnerability, and potential social disintegration, in addition to other risks related to human rights, culture, and quality of life.[46] Forced displacement has varying impacts, dependent on the means through which one was forcibly displaced, their geographic location, their protected status, and their ability to personally recover. Under the most common form of displacement, armed conflict, individuals often lose possession of their assets upon fleeing and possible upon arrival to a new country, where they can also face cultural, social, and economic discontinuity.[10][47]

Responses to forced displacement[edit]

International response[edit]

Responses to situations of forced displacement vary across regional and international levels, with each type of forced displacement demonstrating unique characteristics and the need for a considerate approach. At the international level, international organizations (e.g. the UNHCR), NGOs (Doctors without Borders), and country governments (USAID) may work towards directly or indirectly ameliorating these situations.[48] Means may include establishing internationally-recognized protections, providing clinics to migrant camps, and supplying resources to populations.[33][49] According to researchers such as Francis Deng, as well as international organizations such as the UN, an increase in IDPs compounds the difficulty of international responses, posing issues of incomplete information and questions regarding state sovereignty.[50][48][51] State sovereignty especially becomes of concern when discussing protections for IDPs, who are within the borders of a sovereign state, placing reluctance in the international community's ability to respond.[52] Multiple landmark conventions aim at providing rights and protections to the different categories of forcibly displaced persons, including the 1951 Refugee Convention, the 1967 Protocol, the Kampala Convention, and the 1998 Guiding Principles.[53][46] Despite internationally cooperation, these frameworks rely on the international system, which states may disregard. finds that nations "very selectively" respond to instances of forced migration and internally displaced persons.[52]

World organizations such as the United Nations and the World Bank, as well as individual countries, sometimes directly respond to the challenges faced by displaced people, providing humanitarian assistance or forcibly intervening in the country of conflict. Disputes related to these organizations' neutrality and limited resources has affected the capabilities of international humanitarian action to mitigate mass displacement mass displacement's causes.[54] These broad forms of assistance sometimes do not fully address the multidimensional needs of displaced persons. Regardless, calls for multilateral responses echo across organizations in the face of falling international cooperation. These organizations propose more comprehensive approaches, calling for improved conflict resolution and capacity-building in order to reduce instances of forced displacement.[55][56]

Local response[edit]

Responses may occur at more local levels, such as the individual's place of relocation. Lived in experiences of displaced persons will vary according to the state and local policies of their country of relocation. Policies reflecting national exclusion of displaced persons may be undone by inclusive urban policies. Sanctuary cities are an example of spaces that regulate their cooperation or participation with immigration law enforcement.[57] The practice of urban membership upon residence allows displaced persons to have access to city services and benefits, regardless of their legal status.[58] Sanctuary cities have been able to provide migrants with greater mobility and participation in activities limiting the collection of personal information, issuing identification cards to all residents, and providing access to crucial services such as health care.[57] Access to these services can ease the hardships of displaced people by allowing them to healthily adjust to life after displacement.

Criminal prosecution[edit]

Forced displacement has been the subject of several trials in local and international courts. For an offense to classify as a war crime, the victim must be a "protected person" under international humanitarian law. Originally referring only categories of individuals explicitly protected under one of the four Geneva Conventions of 1949, "protected person" now may define a civilian or police force not participating directly in a conflict.[59]

In Article 49, the Fourth Geneva Convention, adopted on 12 August 1949, specifically forbade forced displacement

The Rome Statute of the International Criminal Court defines forced displacement as a crime within the jurisdiction of the court:

  • Following the end of World War II, the Krupp trial was held with a specific charge to the forced displacement of civilian populations for the purpose of forced labor. The US Military Tribunal concluded that "[t]here is no international law that permits the deportation or the use of civilians against their will for other than on reasonable requisitions for the need of the army, either within the area of the army or after deportation to rear areas or to the homeland of the occupying power".[59]
  • At the Nuremberg trials, Hans Frank, chief jurist in occupied Poland, was found guilty, among others for forced displacement of the civilian population.[62]
  • Several people were tried and convicted by the ICTY for connection to forced displacement during the Yugoslav Wars in the 1990s. On 11 April 2018, the Appeals Chamber sentenced Vojislav Šešelj 10 years in prison under Counts 1, 10, and 11 of the indictment for instigating deportation, persecution (forcible displacement), and other inhumane acts (forcible transfer) as crimes against humanity due to his speech in Hrtkovci on 6 May 1992, in which he called for the expulsion of Croats from Vojvodina.[63][64][65] Other convictions for forced displacement included ex-Bosnian Serb politician Momčilo Krajišnik,[66] ex-Croatian Serb leader Milan Martić,[67] former Bosnian Croat paramilitary commander Mladen Naletilić,[68] and Bosnian Serb politician Radoslav Brđanin.[69]

See also[edit]

References[edit]

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