Skip to main content Accessibility help
  • Print publication year: 2005
  • Online publication date: July 2009



Refugees and internally displaced persons: different frameworks of analysis

Internal displacement continues to be a topical and controversial subject. Over the last few years, there have been many discussions and studies attempting to set down a clearer picture of the situation and rights of internally displaced persons. This is no easy task because of the very complexity of the subject whose many variations militate against a single model. Newcomers to this area are often misled by their first impression of the situation of internally displaced persons which leads them to conclude that these people are essentially in the same material circumstances as refugees and should therefore benefit from the same regime of international protection. Internal displacement does not lend itself to such a simple solution. However similar their plight may be, refugees and internally displaced persons fall within two different legal concepts. It follows from this that a human rights framework of analysis must be used with regard to internally displaced persons.

Improving the analysis of the phenomenon of internal displacement and the international response to the problem should not automatically lead to the assumption that refugee protection is undermined. Protection can sometimes be ensured in-country. As long as efforts targeted at the internally displaced are accompanied by a strict requirement that borders remain open to them, the institution of asylum is not jeopardised. The improvement of IDP protection is an integral part of the general efforts to enforce international human rights law.