13 November 2017

Thematic series: the invisible majority

Thematic series: the invisible majority

The vast majority of people who flee their homes to escape conflict, violence and disasters do not cross an international border. Of the 65 million people forcibly displaced around the world, 40 million – or more than six out of ten – are internally displaced people. They are the invisible majority.

The relationship between internal displacement and movements of refugees and migrants is not well understood. This is a major knowledge gap which we want to address. In the coming years, we will seek to build an evidence base painting a more quantitative and qualitative picture of the entire displacement continuum, from the drivers of onward movement across borders to return to countries of origin.

IDPs on the displacement continuum

Thematic series: The invisible majority

This introductory paper presents our thematic programme. It also provides a list of potential case studies and current and targeted partners. To undertake this massive task, we invite all the data, information and support that affected communities, international agencies, NGOs, academic institutions and governments can provide.

Download the introduction (PDF, 0.5MB) in English, FrenchSpanish or Arabic.

Internal displacement and the Global Compact on Refugees – Are today’s returning refugees tomorrow’s IDPs?

Thematic series: the invisible majority

On the occasion of the thematic discussion for the global compact on refugees (November 2017) we publish a new policy brief reviewing the existing policy and research and set out our position on returning refugees, internal displacement and durable solutions. Such research was collected with the aim of informing this week’s thematic discussions, and we provide concrete suggestions for input to the global compact’s programme of action.

Download the policy brief (PDF, 0.4MB)

Returnees in Syria - Sustainable reintegration and durable solutions, or a return to displacement?

Thematic series: the invisible majority

In the absence of systematic data along the displacement continuum, this paper aims to shed some light on the push and pull factors throughout the displacement journey and on the wide spectrum of returning refugee and IDP experiences in Syria.

Download the case study (PDF, 2.1MB)

Going "home" to displacement - Afghanistan's returnee-IDPs

Thematic series: the invisible majority

At the end of 2017, internal displacement in Afghanistan was back on a rising trend. As the conflict deteriorated, so too did the welcome of Afghans in neighbouring countries. As many as half a million undocumented Afghans returned from Iran and Pakistan between January and November 2017, many by force.

The data presented in this case study is drawn from 2017 research on IDPs’ protection needs carried out by Samuel Hall for the Norwegian Refugee Council (NRC). It looks at the main challenges former refugees and migrants who have returned home to internal displacement, known as returnee-IDPs, face in achieving durable solutions, and argues that returnees who continue to face needs related to displacement and should be included in planning and policy for internal displacement.

Download the case study (PDF, 0.4MB)

Returning to El Salvador - Signs of an internal displacement crisis

 El Salvador Case Study









Local human rights organisation Cristosal and IDMC conducted 16 surveys and four in-depth interviews in autumn 2017 with returnees who had fled El Salvador to escape violence. The study was designed to examine conditions for returning deportees and the risks of them becoming internally displaced, often not for the first time. 

As a result of the lack of comprehensive quantitative data on internal displacement in El Salvador, the study also brings together qualitative data and analysis of other information on issues such as violence, crime and human mobility, to build a clearer picture of how the phenomenon is developing and its impacts on those affected.

Download the case study (PDF, 0.7MB)

Nowhere to return to: Iraqis' search for durable solutions continues











IDMC has set out to better understand the relationship between internal displacement and cross-border movements. This case study on Iraq forms part of the resulting Invisible Majority thematic series. It examines drivers of displacement and the onward movement of people within and across borders, provides better understanding of their priorities and preconditions for return, and explores obstacles to their achievement of durable solutions.

As part of this case study, we conducted more than 300 interviews in Iraq, Jordan and Sweden. The research cannot claim to be representative, but it offers a useful snapshot of displacement along the entire displacement continuum, including internally displaced people (IDPs), refugees, returning IDPs and returning refugees.

Download the report (PDF, 1.2MB)

Stuck in the middle: seeking durable solutions in post-peace agreement Colombia 

Colombia cross border report









In the 2017 Global Report on Internal Displacement, the Internal Displacement Monitoring Centre (IDMC) set out to better understand the relationship between internal displacement and cross-border movements. As part of the resulting Invisible Majority thematic series, this report, based on over two hundred interviews with displaced Colombians, examines drivers of displacement and onward movement of internally displaced people (IDPs) within and across borders, provides better understanding of priorities and preconditions for voluntary return, and examine obstacles to durable solutions for returning refugees and IDPs in Colombia. While the report does not set out to assess the successes and failures of the 2016 Peace Agreement, it nonetheless brings to light a number of challenges to its implementation.

Download the report (PDF, 1.5MB)
Download the Executive Summary in Spanish (PDF, 0.2MB)

Once the road is safe: Displacement and return in north-eastern Nigeria 

Report thumbnail









North-eastern Nigeria has borne the brunt of so-called Boko Haram’s jihadist insurgency since 2009. More than 1.9 million people were internally displaced as a result of the group’s violence as of January 2019, and over 230,000 refugees have sought shelter in Cameroon, Chad and Niger.

This report, which is based on interviews with 345 internally displaced people (IDPs) and returning refugees, examines the drivers of displacement and onward movement within and across Nigeria’s borders, provides a better understanding of people’s priorities and preconditions for return, and explores obstacles and opportunities for durable solutions.

Download the report (PDF, 1.4MB)