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It’s World Refugee Day: What’s a refugee?

It’s World Refugee Day Today and worth noting that, categorically, refugees and ‘displaced’ persons are divided into two groups.

Neighboring families escaping violence in Syria are counted differently depending on where they end up. Refugees are people who leave their home countries to seek safety in a neighboring nation. Internally displaced persons (IDPs) flee their homes, but stay in country. Once again, here’s a graphic from Thomson Reuters showing record numbers of refugees and IDPs worldwide:

World Refugees chart

The Aid Leap blog calls attention to the artificial divide between refugees and IDPs saying that both are significantly affected groups by whatever forced them to leave their homes.

The problems that internally displaced people (IDPs) face are not new but they are distinct. Unlike refugees who have crossed an international border, IDPs remain in their nation state and are thus still the responsibility of their home authority. Because of the status, or lack thereof, that international law confers on armed groups, a sub-group of non-state actors, the law itself is insufficient protection for this particular vulnerable group. Because they have been removed from their community, loosing their livelihoods and networks, the removal of many of their normal coping mechanisms leaves them in a unique situation, which is distinct from that of other non combatants during conflict.

World Refugee Day, which is today, is an opportunity to remember all the people displaced whether it be hunger or fighting, says the blog.


About Author

Tom Murphy

Tom Murphy is a New Hampshire-based reporter for Humanosphere. Before joining Humanosphere, Tom founded and edited the aid blog A View From the Cave. His work has appeared in Foreign Policy, the Huffington Post, the Guardian, GlobalPost and Christian Science Monitor. He tweets at @viewfromthecave. Contact him at tmurphy[at]