DIfference between IDP and Refugee

Table of Content

1. Difference between IDPs and refugees

There are 200 million IDPs in the world, there is growing concern that despite the magnitude of the problem there exists no legal regime for it. Challenges which are there are Of providing material assistance

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And ensuring the protection and respect for the fundamental rights of the IDPs.

It is important to distinguish between the IDP and the refugee.

The first element which distinguishes the refugee from IDP is that: the claimant must have crossed the border of the country. This is an absurd requirement because many of the people if not most of them who flee their homes are unable to cross the borders, their plea may be as serious as the plea of those who have crossed the border but they don’t fall under the refugee protection definition. The heavy insistence on this territorial principle has prompted a concern on the mismatch of the definition and the human sufferings. In other words one may say that excluding the IDPs from the refugee definition is unfair. The definition of the refugee protection doesn’t recognize the social, economic or cultural barriers which prohibit to reach for the international protection.

The convention on refugee protection was formulated in three fold historical rationale which states that the convention was formulated by keeping in view the

Limited resources of the international community
Shift of responsibility from the governments to the international community Respecting the sovereignty of the state.

Criticism on historical threefold rationale:

This is not the matter of the limited resources, not of the shifting the responsibility of the government to international community neither it is about sovereignty its about the physical access of the international community to the IDPs.

2. Need for separate instrument

There are two schools of thoughts on this:
One who believe that the existing standards are adequate for the IDP protection they need is just about the implementation. While the other one which believe that the set of new standards is required so meet any gaps if exist in the already existing standards and, new legal framework would focus the international attraction and creating the public awareness.

The school of thought which believes that there is an existing legal framework they need is just to get the IDP protection principles from those stat that:

The sources of the already existing framework are the humanitarian law, human rights law, the Geneva convention, Additional protocols, The convention on refugee protection, 1967 protocol, The ICCPR, ICECOSC The prime duty for the protection of IDPS rests on the government. It needs to take the additional steps for the protection of the IDPs and it can ask for the international protection to safeguard the rights of these displaced people. Every individual has the right of food, this is the human need which is advocated to get access to the IDPs by the international community. If the government fails to protect the basic, social and political rights of the people then it may ask the int’l community for help, not just the government every individual whose rights is violated can request for the international assistance. It is observed that the people who are displaced face more problems regarding their safety than as compared to the any other person, so to safeguard this United nations has formulated the principle and guidelines can be taken from those. Humanitarian law codifies that those who are not directly participating in the hostilities must be treated humanly. Especially the article 3 states that They must not be subject to the violence, taking hostages, and outrage upon the personal dignity must not be initiated. This principle applies to people who have been displaced as a reason of the armed conflict and to those states who are the parties to the additional protocol II. Governments must be convinced to ratify the Geneva conventions and the additional protocols. Which are there for the support of those who have been displaced due to the course of armed conflict. Despite the number of similarity refugee definition is applied only to those who have in any case crossed the borders. But one important thing is there for the displaced people is that they may apply for the asylum. Given the similarities of the refugee and IDPS there are numerous principles of refugees which may be said as the principles for the protection of IDPs e.g the right of free movement, the right not to forcibly return to their areas, the right to have the proper documentation, the right of education , the right of not to be identified as displaced person if it might result in the discrimination of any kind, right of voluntary return etc

3. Definition

As per the definition of the IDPs exists in the documents of the UN:

“The persons who have been forced to flee their homes suddenly or unexpectedly in large numbers due to armed conflict, internal strife, natural disaster, systematic violation of the human rights, and who are within the territory of the country of origin”

The definition is duly too broad and too narrow as well:


The inclusion of the term natural disaster has made it broad in a way that, those who are affected by the natural disasters are not considered as refugees because they are not in need of the international protection but the point which justifies the inclusion of the natural disaster affectees to the IDPs may be is due to the fact that the governments in the pretext of
natural disasters target those groups whom they found the ethnic or political opposition. So by including the person hit by the natural disaster into the IDPs is giving those the protection against their home government. E.g Ethopia droughts and famine situation, Kurds etc.


By saying in the definition that those who have fled suddenly and unexpectedly in large numbers had narrowed the scope of this definition. For instance those who are fleeing in the small numbers don’t fall under the definition?

Term forced to flee has made it marrow as well, sometimes the people are uprooted by the governments but they don’t flee for instance In Bosnia, people didn’t flee, but they must be considered as IDPs.

The need is that definition should be drafted in a way that whoa re those people who need the attention of the international community

4. Guiding principles

These guiding principles are there to provide the guidelines for the protection of the forced internally displaced people, protection during their displacement and during their resettlement and the reintegration.

For the purpose of these principles internally displaced person are those who have been forced to flee their homes, habitual residence in order o avoid the effects of the armed conflict, generalized violation of human rights, internal strife, natural or man made disasters and are unable to cross the international borders. Mentioned below are the principles:

Right of freedom:
Internally displaced persons as like the other people must have the right of freedom, they must have the same rights in equality with the others.

Observation of principles:

Implementation of these rights must be observed by all the authorities but this must be ensured that this observance shall not affect the legal status of the authorities and groups involved.

Duty of national authority:

The first and the foremost duty for the protection of the refugees rests on the shoulders of the home government. The internally displaced people have the right to request for the humanitarian assistance and they must not be punished for this.

Aviodence of displacement:

All the national and international authorities make sure that they causes of the internal displacement must be reduced so as to avoid the displacement.

Right of protection:

Every human being has the right of protection against being arbitrarily displaced, the arbitrarily displacement must be prohibited.

Alternatives have been explored:

Before making any decision regarding the displacement of the persons authorities should have explored all the other alternatives to avoid displacement.

Proper accommodation:

It must be ensured that those who have fled must properly be accommodated.

Rights of dignity, liberty and security:

The displacement shall be carried d out in a way that the rights of liberty, dignity and life must not be violated of the of the displaced people.

Right of life:

No one shall be arbitrarily deprived of this right, displaced people must not be persecuted on the basis of genocide, target killing, murder, enforced disappearance.

Right of dinignity:

Every individual has right to dignity, physical and mental. These rights of the displaced people must be ensured that they must not be subject to slavery or sexual abuse.

Arrest or detention:

Every individual has the right to liberty and security. An internally displaced person shall be protected against the discriminatory arrest and detention.


Any of the IDP must not be recruited for the hostilities.

Another part of the country:

Any IDP has a right to seek the safety in another part of the country. He has the right to leave their country
They have right to take asylum in another country .

Whereabout of the family:

Every IDP has the right to know the whereabouts of the family

Reunification of the family:

Those who have been separated from their families has the right to reunify once again as soon as possible.

Standard of living;

Every IDP has the right to have an adequate standard of living i-e food, shelter, sanitation, essential medical services and sanitation.

Medical care and attention:

Those who are wounded and need medication must be given the practicable medical care as soon as possible and to the fullest extent, without any distinction on any ground.

Right of recognition:

Every individual has a right to be identified, the same holds true for the IDPs They must be recognized and for that the proper documentation has been done. They have this right as to have to have passports, birth certificates, marriage certificates etc.

Property and possessions:

The property and possessions of internally displaced persons shall in all circumstances be protected.


The displaced people living in the camps must not be discriminated.

Right of education:

Every individual has the right of education, the internally displaced people have this right too and that the authorities must ensure the provision of such facilities.

The assistance of the authorities involved:

All those authorities who are involved in must be provided with the proper assistance.

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DIfference between IDP and Refugee. (2016, Jul 18). Retrieved from


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