Basic services and a dignified life for internally displaced people around the world

Caritas Internationalis joins Pope Francis in raising awareness about the tragedy of 45,7 million internally displaced people worldwide

On the World Day of Migrants and Refugees, promoted by the Vatican, Caritas Internationalis joins Pope Francis to draw attention to the often forgotten tragedy of internally displaced people (IDPs). Caritas urges governments to provide unconditional access to basic services and a dignified and safe return home for all internally displaced people around the world.

The theme chosen by Pope Francis for the 106th World Day of Migrants and Refugees is: “Forced like Jesus Christ to flee” and it focuses on the pastoral care of internally displaced people. Read Pope Francis’ message.

Internally Displaced Persons (IDP’s) arrive to take shelter next to the Cathedral on November 10, 2013 in Bossangoa, 380 km north of Bangui. Credit: Matthieu Alexandre

The secretary general of Caritas Internationalis, Aloysius John, says, “Throughout the world, Caritas Internationalis is in constant and direct contact with those living the dramatic situation of being displaced in their own countries. They are people left to their own devices and deprived of conventional legal protection. On this special day we want to echo their cry for justice by calling for immediate and timely action.”

The 2020 Global Report by the Internal Displacement Monitoring Centre, says 45,7 million people were internally displaced as a result of conflict and disasters around the world by the end of 2019.

“This figure is the highest ever recorded,” says John. “But despite the growing numbers and the urgency, until now, the dramatic situation of the IDPs was not adequately addressed on an international level.”

Unlike refugees, who are granted international protection, IDPs don’t benefit from such legal protection framework. IDPs cannot obtain refugee status, which would give them a high level of international protection, because they remain within the borders of their own countries.

“They are victims of undemocratic political systems and environmental disorder which leads to hunger, war and violence. They are among the most vulnerable people on the planet yet they are denied their basic right to live a dignified life,” John adds.

IDP children – especially young girls – and women are even more vulnerable and are often objects of exploitation, abuse and sexual violence.

Caritas organisations throughout the world have embraced the cause of these vulnerable people by receiving them, accompanying them and helping them to live a dignified life.

In Honduras, for example, support starts within the parish Caritas, whose volunteers are mobilised to receive internally displaced people and help them integrate into the local community, as well as assisting them with access to education and health.

In Burkina Faso, Caritas Ocades/Burkina is running a project to facilitate the integration of internally displaced minors.

“We are close to internally displaced people in order to serve them, as Pope Francis urged everyone to do in his message for this day. He referred to the Parable of the Good Samaritan, whose spirituality is at the heart of Caritas’ work. All our efforts are focused on ensuring the dignity of internally displaced people,” John said.

Many situations of internal displacement have become protracted as the root causes of forced displacement are not addressed or remain unresolved, for instance, in conflict situations (Syria, Colombia, Ukraine…) or as a result of natural disasters and famines (Somalia, Burkina Faso and Mali, the Philippines), or due to climate change, where continuing conditions of insecurity prevent forcibly internally displaced people from returning home.

“We cannot continue to close our eyes to this tragedy. On this day for migrants and refugees Caritas Internationalis urges governments and the international community to take immediate action for internally displaced people, and in particular:

  • Ensure internally displaced people have unconditional access to basic needs – such as food and water – and services, thus enabling them to live a dignified life, especially at this time of COVID-19 pandemic.
  • Ensure a safe and dignified return to their homes for those who want and can return.
  • Agree to a global ceasefire, in order to suspend the conflicts that are among the main causes that force internally displaced people to flee.


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