Forced Migration Is the general term for a group of persons who have been displaced from their homes due to a man-made catastrophe or natural disaster.
Causes of Displacement
- Conflict-Induced occurs when people are forced to flee their homes as a result of armed conflict including civil war, generalized violence, and persecution on the grounds of nationality, race, religion, political opinion or social group.
- Development-Induced occurs when people are compelled to move as a result of policies and projects implemented to advance ‘development’ efforts. Examples of this include large-scale infrastructure projects such as dams, roads, ports, airports; urban clearance initiatives; mining and deforestation; and the introduction of conservation parks/reserves and biosphere projects.
- Disaster-Induced occurs when people are displaced as a result of natural disasters (floods, volcanoes, landslides, earthquakes), environmental change (deforestation, desertification, land degradation, global warming) and human-made disasters (industrial accidents, radioactivity).
Displaced people fall into one of the following categories:
- Refugees – A person residing outside his or her country of nationality, who is unable or unwilling to return because of a ‘well-founded fear of persecution on account of race, religion, nationality, membership in a political social group, or political opinion’.
- Asylum seekers – People who have moved across international borders in search of protection under the 1951 Refugee Convention, but whose claim for refugee status has not yet been determined.
- Trafficked people -Those who are moved by deception or coercion for the purposes of exploitation.
- Environmental refugees – Population displaced by environmental factors such as floods, volcanoes, landslides, earthquakes or deforestation, desertification, land degradation, man-made disasters, and they do not leave the borders of their homeland.
- Smuggled migrants – these group of persons deserve special attention because although they initially left their homeland in search of a better life, some end up moved illegally for-profit and into bondage labor or worst.
International Law on Refugees and Forced Displacement
“The core principle is non-refoulement, which asserts that a refugee should not be returned to a country where they face serious threats to their life or freedom”.
Initially focused on protecting mainly European refugees in the aftermath of World War II the 1951 Refugee Convention (plus the 1967 Protocol) helped to pave the road to other regional instruments such as the OAU Refugee Convention in Africa, the Cartagena Declaration in Latin America, and the development of an asylum system in the European Union, which together serve as the legal body for the protection of refugees
The Convention clearly spells out who is a refugee and the kind of legal protection, social rights and other assistance they should receive from states in the document.
The Convention defines a refugee as: “A person who is outside his/her country of nationality or habitual residence; has a well-founded fear of persecution because of his/her race, religion, nationality, membership in a particular social group or political opinion; and is unable or unwilling to avail himself/herself of the protection of that country, or to return there, for fear of persecution.”
Completed in 1998, the Guiding Principles (GPs) represent the first international standards for internally displaced persons (IDPs). The GPs comprise 30 principles, which define the rights of IDPs and the obligation of both governments and rebel groups to protect them.
The GPs “address all phases of displacement—providing protection against arbitrary displacement, offering a basis for protection and assistance during displacement, and setting forth guarantees for safe return, resettlement, and reintegration.“