The islands of Indonesia are highly prone to disasters including volcanic eruptions, earthquakes, floods, landslides and tsunamis. Coupled with rapid urbanization rates, and a low coping capacity, this leaves populations vulnerable to disasters and leads to large numbers of new disaster-induced displacements every year. In 2017, 365,000 new disaster displacements were recorded, almost half of which were caused by the volcanic eruption in Bali in November.

The Government of Indonesia has taken a leadership role in preventing and responding to the many disasters it faces on a yearly basis. Indonesia’s National Disaster Management Agency (BNPB) is one of the most advanced in the region, and has organized a systematic data collection, monitoring and response mechanism at the country level, including early warning systems.  

Regarding conflict, violence in the Papua region continues to displace people; about 2,800 new displacements were recorded for 2017.  In addition, people displaced by inter-communal clashes related to insurgencies between 1998 and 2004 as well as religious conflict between 2007 and 2014 continue to live in a situation of protracted displacement. 

Latest new displacements
Risk of future displacement

Average expected number of displacements per year – for sudden-onset hazards:

IDMC uses information about the probability of future hazard scenarios to model displacement risk based on probable housing destruction. Find out how we calculate our metrics here and explore the likelihood of future displacement around the world here.

What causes displacement? 

Indonesia comprises more than 17,000 islands, all prone to disasters brought on by natural hazards. While a large population and high population density means that  people often live in highly exposed areas, the country also has high levels of vulnerability to disasters due to low economic development in some parts of the country, leading to a low coping capacity. These factors explain why Indonesia also has some of the highest levels of disaster related displacement worldwide. Most recorded disaster displacement in the country is linked to evacuations, which take place in government-run shelters and evacuation centers. For some hazards, early warning systems have allowed for the pre-emptive evacuation of exposed populations. 

Based on IDMC’s prospective disaster displacement risk model, Indonesia ranks 8th globally for highest average annual displacement risk. An average of 378,000 people are at risk of being displaced at any given year in the future, due to sudden onset hazards such as floods, earthquakes, tsunamis and storm surges.  This estimate is confirmed by IDMC data for the period of 2008 to 2016, which saw about 402,000 people being displaced on average each year by sudden onset hazards. Particularly large events include floods and associated landslides during the rainy season of 2016, which caused 949,000 new displacements in that year alone, and a volcanic eruption in Bali in 2017, which led to more than 150,000 new displacements. 

The country is prone to volcanic eruptions, earthquakes and tsunamis due to its location on the Pacific “Ring of Fire”, where the vast majority of the world’s volcanic eruptions and earthquakes occur.  It is also uniquely situated at the intersection of three major continental tectonic plates, making seismic activity very likely.  The country experiences an annual monsoon season, and some parts of the country’s large coastline are at risk of typhoons, which can occur during the months of September and December every year. 

Hazard exposure maps show that a large proportion of the population lives in areas where they are at high risk of being affected by these natural hazards. For example, around 5% of Indonesia’s population, or over 11 million people, lives in earthquake prone areas, and around 2.5 million people are exposed to tsunamis.  

This exposure interacts with vulnerability and a low coping capacity to contribute to internal displacement. This is clear in the case of flooding in urban areas. Indonesia has experienced decades of rapid urbanization, with 55% of the country’s population living in an urban area in 2018. These areas face particularly high exposure to hazards and the effects of climate change. This is particularly the case for the capital Jakarta, a coastal city crisscrossed by 13 rivers that often overflow during the monsoon season. Jakarta is vulnerable to annual flooding and sea level rise. The growth of informal settlements with low quality housing, and rapid changes in land use have led to an increased susceptibility to annual flooding. More recent floods have partly resulted from the inability of the city’s drainage system to cope with overflowing rivers.

Indonesia also has a history of conflict-induced displacement. Most of the conflict-induced displacement on record relates to intercommunal conflict that occurred in the decades after President Suharto’s resignation and very little information exists regarding displacement during Suharto’s presidency. Between 1998 and 2004, armed conflict and widespread inter-communal violence is thought to have displaced up to three million people country-wide. Inter-religious and inter-ethnic tensions fueled violence in Central Sulawesi, Maluku, and Central and West Kalimantan, and separatist movements led to violence in Aceh, Papua and Timor. 

Violence largely decreased with the signing of the Aceh peace accord in 2005 and the Maluku II accord in 2002, and the vast majority of those displaced have returned home. New displacements in recent years have mostly been linked to continued violence in the Papua region.  

Very little data exists regarding development-induced displacement, although this is likely to be high considering Indonesia’s decades of rapid economic growth.  Anecdotal evidence has pointed to the risk of displacement in the context of infrastructure, energy, mining or urban renewal projects, or in the context of land deforestation and clearing. These are areas which require further research. 

Where and how do people move? 

Indonesia’s national disaster management agency (Badan Nasional Penanggulangan Bencana – BNPB) monitors disaster impacts and coordinates humanitarian assistance. In the context of disasters, IDPs typically move to temporary evacuation shelters provided by the government or stay with family and friends. People staying in temporary shelters, may often return home during the day to tend to their land and livestock as was the case when more than 150,000 people were temporarily sheltered on the island of Bali between September and December 2017 due to seismic and volcanic activity around Mount Agung. This constant movement of people into and out of evacuation shelters and the large numbers of people who decide to stay with family and friends make it difficult to fully understand where people are and how many are still displaced. 

While the majority of IDPs that were displaced by inter-communal violence or insurgency-related violence between 1998 and 2004 have returned home, those who remain have been unable or unwilling to return, or have failed to rebuild their lives in the areas where they are displaced, largely due to unresolved ethnic and religious tensions and land disputes. Most of them live in West Timor in Maluku, while others live in North Sulawesi and West Lombok. People displaced by attacks against religious minorities between 2007 and 2013 have also failed to return home. In Papua and West Papua, conflict displacement is mostly in remote rural areas where many people fear returning home.

What is life like for IDPs and communities hosting them?

Humanitarian impacts differ depending on the cause of displacement. During disasters, people are displaced to temporary shelters or evacuation centres. Depending on the scale of the event, some people may stay in shelters or evacuation centres for extended periods of time with little to no knowledge of when they may be able to return home or reach other durable solutions. For example, five years after their displacement, people forced to flee after the 2009 Sumatra earthquake continued to face delays in obtaining permits for land, continued to be exposed to hazards, and lacked livelihood opportunities. Similarly, people displaced by the eruption of Mount Sinabung in 2013, were also confronted with reconstruction and relocation delays. Given the extensive damage caused by the September 2018 magnitude 7.4 earthquake in Central Sulawesi and ensuing 5-6 metre tsunami, it is unclear when the 211,000 people displaced in over 900 informal and informal camp sites will be able to reach durable solutions.

Displacement also raises issues of land tenure and property rights. The lack of formal land rights and documents makes it difficult for people displaced, be it by conflict or natural disasters, to reclaim their land and homes upon return when ownership is subsequently disputed by other claimants. Furthermore, people displaced between 1998 and 2004 who failed to return to their homes experienced challenges to finding new land and homes over which they could establish tenure. Many could not afford the cost of purchasing or registering land, and tensions developed between IDPs and the host community over land. 

Displacement can negatively impact multiple dimensions of life including education, shelter, livelihoods, housing, infrastructure, security and social life. While limited quantitative data exists on the health impacts of displacement, it is considered to take a toll on health, including physical and mental and emotional wellbeing. For example, in early October 2017 it was reported that about 10,000 evacuees in Bali were sick from fatigue and prolonged stress due to the cold and uncomfortable living conditions in shelters. 

People displaced in Papua and West Papua have been found to struggle with physical security, freedom of movement, access to food, water, shelter, livelihood opportunities and healthcare

Where does data on displacement come from and what are the main challenges? 

The National Disaster Management Agency (BNPB)  has developed a systematic data collection, monitoring and response mechanism at the country level and is one of the main sources of information on disaster related displacement in the country. As a government institution its status is equal to the national ministries that reports to the President, and mandated tasks include coordinating disaster management activities and assuming command in an emergency. As part of this, BNPB systematically reports on displacement figures through press releases, infographics and communication products, as well as through an online disaster data repository that provides information on people affected and displaced by disasters. Other actors, such as the ASEAN Coordinating Centre for Humanitarian Assistance (AHA Centre) and the Ministry of Health’s Centre for Health Crisis, also collect displacement data. A key challenge in the data system for disaster related displacement involves the coordination and data sharing between all relevant actors.    

No single, comprehensive source of data on those displaced by conflict and violence exists. As a result, conflict-related displacement data is collected from various sources, including government agencies, international NGOs, UN agencies and media outlets.

Latest GRID confidence assessment
Displacement type IDPs (Stock) New Displacement (Flow)
Reporting units
Key informants
Media monitoring
Geographical disaggregation Subnational - admin 1 Subnational - admin 1
Geographical coverage Partial coverage Partial coverage
Frequency of reporting Other Other
Disaggregation on sex No No
Disaggregation on age No No
Data triangulation Some local triangulation Some local triangulation
Data on settlement elsewhere No No
Data on returns No No
Data on local integration No No
Data on deaths No No
Data on births No No

Latest figures analysis

IDMC's estimates include a number of caseloads: those displaced by inter-communal violence or insurgency-related violence between 1998 and 2004 and have since been unable or unwilling to return; those displaced between 2007 and 2013 by attacks against religious minorities and who have since failed to return; those forcibly evicted due to land conflicts; those displaced due to the long-running separatist conflict in Papua; and those displaced by electoral violence in 2017. We collected data from various sources, including government agencies, international NGOs, UN agencies and media outlets.

Download GRID extended figures analysis (PDF, 363 KB)

Latest GRID stock figure by year of data update

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