Refugees in Their Own Homeland / Foreign Policy

Screen Shot 2014-03-09 at 8.11.09 AMLet’s imagine for a moment, that in some massively devastating economic disaster, the entire population of Canada, roughly 35 million people, loses its jobs. The country’s infrastructure implodes — no functioning trains or reliable electricity — and then these people also lose their homes, their schools, and their belongings. Poverty begins to take root, and lines for food stretch around blocks. There’s a shortage of resources and shelter. Ensuing conflict erupts in a war, complete with bombs exploding overhead, snipers firing rifles, and soldiers going from house to house making arrests.

Clearly, it’s not safe to stay in Canada.

So now take lots of these millions of Canadians and move them across the border into the United States. Oh, wait — that’s not going to work (the United States doesn’t want millions of immigrants seeking asylum, does it?). Instead, picture these people fleeing to relatively safer areas within the country, building makeshift shelters out of tarps and cardboard in parks or renting rundown apartments with the little money they were able to take with them. And now, you can begin to imagine what it’s like for internally displaced people stuck within their own borders.

According to a report from the Internal Displacement Monitoring Center (IDMC) in Geneva, the number of people forced to flee their homes but remain within their own borders because of war and general violence was, as of the end of 2014, a record-breaking 38 million. During the past year alone, 11 million people were displaced. That’s 30,000 people per day.

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