The plight of internally displaced peoples calls for concerted global action

Resolving conflicts is the only way to end the misery of people trapped in their own borders

Syria is now home to 6.7 million IDPs – the largest such population in the world. AFP
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In 2017, almost 12 million people across the world were internally displaced, trapped within the borders of the state that uprooted them. A report published by the Norwegian Refugee Council's Internal Displacement Monitoring Centre reveals that, in the Middle East, the number of internally displaced people (IDPs) nearly doubled over the past year to 4.5 million, meaning that some 12,000 people were displaced each day in this region in 2017. There is certainly something deeply disturbing about being rendered homeless in one's homeland.

The principal site of displacement is Syria, where the civil war has forced millions to flee their homes. Many have slipped into foreign territories. Some have made it to Europe, where they have faced mixed fortunes. Most are trapped inside Syria – roaming in search of security, but trailed at every turn by the regime. The country is now home to 6.7 million IDPs – the largest such population in the world. In Iraq, where 730,000 people were internally displaced last year, dozens of returnees have been killed by explosive devices left behind by ISIS. Significant fear still keeps many from going hoe. Beyond the Middle East, Africa accounts for nearly half of the world's IDPs. Last year alone that fate befell 2.1 million people in Ethiopia, the Central African Republic and South Sudan, forced to flee for their lives.

The existence of people who have become refugees in their own land is often indescribably miserable. They are not only homeless but exposed at all times to the very forces from which they need protection. Provision of aid is made harder by the fact that IDPs often cluster in remote areas that can only be accessed with the assistance and cooperation of state authorities. Too often, as the world witnessed during the Syrian regime's siege of Eastern Ghouta, it is those very authorities that block vital aid. Refugees in foreign lands can be settled and given a fresh start, although too few are. Yet the plight of IDPs calls for concerted global action to resolve festering conflicts and protect those it uproots. Their swelling numbers speak of the world's failure.