Definitions

displaced-person

Displaced person

A displaced person (sometimes abbreviated DP) is a person who has been forced to leave his or her native place, a phenomenon known as forced migration.

Origin of term

The term was first widely used during World War II and the resulting refugee outflows from Eastern Europe, when it was used to specifically refer to one removed from his or her native country as a refugee, prisoner or a slave laborer. The meaning has significantly broadened in the past half-century. A displaced person may also be referred to as a forced migrant. The term "refugee" is also commonly used as a synonym for displaced person, causing confusion between the general descriptive class of anyone who has left their home and the subgroup of legally defined refugees who enjoy specified international legal protection.

International law aspects

If the displaced person has crossed an international border and falls under one of the relevant international legal instruments, they are considered a refugee. A forced migrant who left his or her home because of political persecution or violence, but did not cross an international border, is commonly considered to be the less well-defined category of internally displaced person (IDP), and is subject to more tenuous international protection. The forced displacement of a number of refugees or internally displaced persons according to an identifiable policy is an example of population transfer. A displaced person who crosses an international border without permission from the country they are entering is an illegal immigrant. The most visible recent case of this is the large number of North Koreans who have settled in the border region of China.

A migrant who fled because of economic hardship is an economic migrant. A special sub-set of this is development-induced displacement, in which the forced migrant was forced out their home because of economically-driven projects like that of the Three Gorges Dam in China and various Indian dams. The internally displaced person generally refers to one who is forced to migrate for reasons other than economic conditions, such as war or persecution. There is a body of opinion that holds that persons subject to development-induced displacement should have greater legal protection than that granted economic migrants.

Persons are often displaced due to natural or man-made disasters. No specific international legal instrument applies to such individuals, though their welfare remains the responsibility of the state to which they are citizens. Foreign nations often offer disaster relief to mitigate the effects of such disaster displacement.

Following the effects of Hurricane Katrina in 2005, the term "refugee" was sometimes used to describe people displaced by the storm and the aftereffects. There was an outcry that the term should not be used to describe Americans displaced within their own county, and the term "evacuee" was substituted in its place .

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