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Locating internally displaced people in the field of forced migration

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There appears to have been a shift in the nature of forced migration since the end of the Cold War: the total number of refugees worldwide has been declining since the latter part of the 1990s, while the number of internally displaced people has risen. This paper reflects on some aspects of this shift. First, it attempts to place internal displacement in the broader arena of forced migration: it locates internally displaced people within a simple schema which seeks to account for different forms of forced migration and to show the connections between them. Some cases of internal displacement in Sri Lanka are examined to show the close links between different kinds of migratory movement. The paper then suggests some reasons, apart from the increase in numbers, for the increase in interest in internally displaced persons in both the academic and policy arenas. Specifically, it attempts to set the issue of internal displacement within the current debate on the 'refugee regime', especially the controversy about 'containment' of would-be asylum seekers in their countries of origin. The paper concludes that understanding the complex dynamics between different forms of migration, internal and international, is needed for the construction of an effective 'refugee regime'.
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Document Type: Research Article

Affiliations: Centre for Development Research, Gammel Kongevej 5, DK-1610 Copenhagen V, Denmark

Publication date: 2000-09-06

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