A watchdog organization says 31.1 million people were displaced in 2016 within their home countries due to conflict, violence and disasters. 

The Internal Displacement Monitoring Center (IDMC) of the Norwegian Refugee Council (NRC) released a report Monday about the startling statistics.

“In 2016, one person every second was forced to flee their home inside their own country,” said Jan Egeland, NRC secretary-general.  “Internally displaced people now outnumber refugees by two to one.  It is urgent to put internal displacement back on the global agenda.”

Refugees seek asylum in other countries, giving them legal refugee status, which entitles them to certain rights and international protection.  An internally displaced person, or IDP, does not have legal status because IDPs are still under the jurisdiction of their own government and may not claim any rights additional to those shared by their fellow citizens.

Conflicts last year caused 6.9 million new internal displacements with 2.6 million taking place in sub-Saharan Africa, IDMC said.

Disasters, mostly weather hazards including floods, storms, wildfires and severe winter conditions, were responsible for 24 million displacements. 

“Despite internal displacement being the starting point of many onward journeys, it has been overshadowed by the current global focus on refugees and migrants,” said Alexandra Bilak, IDMC director.  “We need to acknowledge that without the right kind of support and protection, a person internally displaced today may become a refugee, an asylum seeker or an international migrant tomorrow.”

The report said, however, more aid was spent last year on refugee resettlement than in the countries where the crises originated.

Bilak said, “To the extent that the Global Report on Internal Displacement holds up a mirror, the reflection it projects is one of international indifference, lack of accountability and states’ failure to protect their own people.” 

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