Never in the last 10 years of IDMC’s global reporting, from the peak of the Darfur crisis in 2004 and the sectarian violence in Iraq in the mid to late 2000s to the uprisings of the “Arab spring” in 2011 and the ensuing crises in the Middle East have we reported such a high estimate for the number of people newly displaced in a year. Today there are almost twice as many IDPs as there are refugees worldwide.
At the launch, Jan Egeland, the Secretary General of the NRC, described the report as a wake-up call. “We have to be better at protecting civilian men, women and children in all of these internal conflicts and situations of violence,“ he said.
With internal displacement figures reaching a record high for the third year in a row, the report documents that 11 million people were newly displaced by violent events in 2014 alone. This is a 15% increase in numbers displaced by conflicts from the previous year, and represents one person being forced to flee every three seconds.
The majority of the increase in new displacement since last year is the result of the protracted crises in Iraq, South Sudan, Syria, Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC) and Nigeria. These five countries alone accounted for 60% of new displacement worldwide.
Volker Türk, UNHCR’s Assistant High Commissioner for Protection, warned that “the longer a conflict lasts, the more insecure [IDPs] feel and when hopelessness sets in, many will cross borders and become refugees,” he said.
Iraq suffered most new displacement, with at least 2.2 million people fleeing from areas that fell under Islamic State (ISIL) control. Al Jazeera journalist, Imran Khan, described the fear many displaced people in Iraq are feeling.
“If you speak to people here, what they’ll tell you is that no matter how much help they are getting from the government, no matter how much help they are getting from international aid agencies , they would rather be back at home living in peace, “ said Khan.
With no end in sight, Syria’s civil war forced at least 1.1 million people to flee their homes. At least 40% of Syria’s population, or 7.6 million people, have been displaced. This makes it the country with the largest number of IDPs in the world. Overall, there were 11.9 million IDPs in the Middle East and north Africa at the end of 2014, 90% of which were living in Iraq and Syria.
The way forward
According to Egeland we must go beyond finding durable solutions for displaced people and begin holding people accountable for their violations against humanitarian principles and human rights.
“38 million human beings are suffering - often in horrendous conditions where they have no hope and no future—and unless we challenge ourselves to change our approach, the shockwaves of these conflicts will continue to haunt us for decades to come,” said Egeland.
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