Internally Displaced Persons And Breach Of National Sovereignty: Contentions And The Way Forward

Internally Displaced Persons And Breach Of National Sovereignty: Contentions And The Way Forward

Authors: Tejas Sateesha Hinder and Ritik Kumar Rath, National Law Institute University, Bhopal.


Protect People? or Protect Sovereignty? During a crisis this the dilemma faced by those in the national government. Apropos international development, no nation is truly sovereign. Greater interests and a global world have crisscrossed our interests and made us dependent on each other. More importantly global citizens have a responsibility to help keep the world safe and free from civil disruption and terrorism. The United Nations Charter frequently stresses on the involvement of the Security Council and chapter seven determines the order of action to be taken by countries in such situations.


Established in December 1950 due to the expanding amount of displaced persons after World War II, the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR) has aimed to lay out prospective choices in health, safety and rehabilitation for refugees and internally displaced persons. Success in Asia and Africa has boosted the UNHCR’s presence in other areas of conflict and 56 million people have been provided shelter in camps and food for survival. As stated in the charter, under no circumstance is it possible to engage in an armed conflict with another state, this however does not protect nations from safeguarding themselves in an event or threat of war. With respect to “infringing sovereignty”, Ban Ki-Moon addressed an audience on the 25th of July 2008 with regard to Responsible Sovereignty: International Cooperation for a Changed World. He explained the concept of Responsibility to Protect, saying it was in accordance with the UN charter, stating that nations’ have the responsibility to forfeit their sovereignty when their citizens are in direct threat of mass atrocity crimes.

In the last year and half the eerie presence of non-state actors has intensified in the Middle East and Africa region, creating an epidemic of panic and inability to act among governments and citizens. Proving to be more active and creative than their allies Al-Qaeda and Taliban, radical groups such as Daesh and Boko Haram have caused irreversible damage, increasing the chances of breaching sovereignty and changing the population of countries drastically. Economic conditions of these non-developed nations have caused support to be poured in from major players in defense and technology. As seen in Syria the opposition is supported by the United States and the United Kingdom and the government is fighting back with Russia’s assistance. A recent coalition led by Saudi Arabia after examining Yemen’s situation has requested its President Abdrabbuh Mansour Hadi to intervene and send an airstrike on the rebel Houthi.

Other members who are convinced that a gruesome civil war is approaching are Jordan, Egypt, Sudan and Morocco. Whatever the circumstances the safety of the citizens of a sovereign nation is most vital. The UNHCR can be more effective with the assistance of local bodies and volunteers hoping to make a difference. Internally Displaced Persons and refugees have to be provided a new livelihood and further be protected. Saving lives and resolving the trauma of conflict is the aim of this report.

Syrian Civil War

After more than 4 years of a horrifying civil war Syria’s dispute is the worst humanitarian catastrophe of this decade. This conflict has taken place for the same reason any civil war takes place, the inefficiency and malfunction of the Bashar al Assad rule.[1] There are 11 million persons displaced and over 220,000 people dead. The country now lacks vital emergency response equipment and basic necessities like food and medical care. Within the borders, the UNHCR estimates that 4 million out of 7.6 million persons are registered for asylum while the rest are internally displaced and in line for crucial humanitarian need. At this rate this could be the worst exodus since the Rwandan genocide 20 years ago.[2]

Neighbours of Syria have reduced some of their burden by providing basic necessities to the refugees who have now completely felt their earlier lives behind. Out of the 4 million Syrians, 1,938,999 persons have fled to Turkey; 629,295 persons to Jordan; 24,055 to Libya and 1,113,914 to Lebanon. The newly opened border crossing in Northern Iraq has helped Syrians escape to safety, yet Iraq now trapped in its own insurgency conflict has not been able to meet the needs of the refugees adding to an approximate of 1.5 million internally displaced Iraqis even after aid of Non Government Organisations. In Turkey refugees see an urban community and newly created cultural conflicts. And in Lebanon families have established makeshift camps and find shelter in degrading, rotting buildings[3].

Most Syrians who escaped are under the age of 18 and have not been able to get continuous education. The United Nations has been raising funds for the world’s largest crisis and $8.4 billion is necessary to meet the needs of those affected. The degrading political situation has caused aid to pour in, a majority from the European Union, unfortunately only 348,540 have been granted asylum. Germany’s chancellor, Angela Merkel has requested neighbouring countries to increase their refugee intake, stating that this is not what Europe stands for as few nations reject refugees due to their religion or past. Germany has accepted more than 160,000 refugees and plan to increase this number in the future.[4] The only way refugees and Internally Displaced Persons will return to their home country is by resolving this issue once and for all.

Economic Strain

There are many long term effects of internal wars few being loss of land, food and identity. One concept that creates a deeper impression than the others, is the lack of economic presence. When sovereignty is breached, it can have a positive or negative effect on the lives of the people. Economic strain is causing citizens caught in a conflicted region, unable to fend for themselves. Loss of resources has caused a domino effect on the development in the Arab Region, due to loss of life and refugee outflows, infrastructure destruction and the trade embargo has caused a direct effect on the size and skills of the labour force. The recent 2014 World Bank study predicted a disruption in the intra-Levant trade which only grew for a short period of time, after the signing of the “Levant Quartet” in 2010 plans to deepen relations were terminated and this had an adverse impact on the expected sizable economic complementarities.[5]

Had the war not occurred, the Gross Domestic Product of the 6 economies present in the greater Levent would be US$35 billion larger due to growing markets and increasing tourism, these countries lost US$35 billion in output during the period of the conflict. At the center of this commotion Syria and Iraq have borne direct economic loss and a constant decline of 23% and 28% in per capita income. In Lebanon, Syria and Turkey, one can see increased labour and investment due to the sudden increase in number of refugees.[6]

Standards of living has decreased as population increases but per capita average remaining steady. The property market has taken the worst hit as the demand for land has declined largely as almost all refugees have change their place of living. However this market has reaped profits in Turkey and Lebanon increasing profits for landowners and also increasing hardships for workers due to competition. Local demand for supplies, goods and services has seen a deterioration in wages and a rise in competition of jobs. Possible solutions as per the 2015-216 population is to construct rent free housing facilities in safe areas, further course of action is depends largely on the length and course of the war in the Levant. [7]

Threat of Non-State Actors

When discussing civil disputes, a majority believe it is between those who want change and their national government. What many do not understand is that there are many organisations influencing citizens and their actions. Religious Groups that believe they are restoring law and order in the world with violence but end up deepening differences and increasing casualties. After the United States killed Osama Bin Laden in 2011, there was a convenient shift in attacks from Asia to Africa and Middle East. The largest Islamic Extremist Group in Africa Boko Haram, had pledged alliance with al-Qaeda and the ISIS making the alliance the biggest terrorist threat ever seen.[8] Gathering support in Yemen, under the leadership of Abu Bakr al Baghdadi the ISIS has declared Islamic Caliphate and called upon all muslims for support. Their presence caused a political imbalance and has increased the chances of breaching sovereignty.

Militans aim to make a statement expressing their power to those outside their control by public executions of Houthis and Houthis-aligned soldiers therefore increasing panic and instability. They now operate in more than 8 provinces of Yemen and carry out regular attacks. What the world sees as a terror leader is actually a group’s freedom fighter, who has pledged his/her life to fulfill their apparent responsibility. They demand revolution and political movement, gathering momentum by force if needed killing hundreds in the process. On the 3rd of September two suicide terrorist attacks were carried out in Kerawa in Cameroon, killing 12 and injuring 100. Boko Haram is the suspect for this crime and has caused widespread panic and instability.[9]Many believe this will lead to an insurgency and nations may breach sovereignty claiming territory and disrupting their lives for good.

International Organizations involved and the progress in Action

United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees:

The Main mission of this organisation is to decrease the number of displaced individuals forced to flee their homes and help them recreate their lives in another country or state. This body works with many local and international, Governmental and non governmental bodies to ensure ground level support and stability. Under the United Nations, the UNHCR works with the Human Rights Council extensively and provides monthly and yearly reports to their respective High Commissioners. They separately go through every case of refugees, Internally Displaced Persons and asylum-seekers before deciding to provide shelter and aid. Being responsible for monetary aid as well, the UNHCR has an incomparable responsibility in the ongoing civil wars.

Many times this organisation gives access to monetary aid meant for refugees and citizens to their respective governments and it is then misused for the ongoing crisis or maybe even for personal gain. As stated by International Law refugees are not allowed to be forced back to the countries they have fled and families are able to settle down completely only with the help of the UNHCR. Out of 895,000 individual applications of refugees handed over to governments and the UNHCR, an approximate of 11% were fulfilled and given refugee status. Developed countries host 86% of refugees while a majority of IDPs are found in the Middle East and Africa regions.[10] As ongoing conflicts get more brutal, the world will see drastic changes in availability of work and shelter as populations will change, the UNHCR has a huge responsibility to ensure safety and security of all the cases they take on.

Refugee Council

The Refugee Council is the United Kingdom’s effort to improve the lives of refugees in Europe. This organisation provides advice, support, employment and legal aid to asylum seekers. Established from British Council for Aid to Refugees and Standing Conference on Refugees in 1951, they have largely contributed to the situation in Syria and Europe, helping migrants from the Middle East survive in Europe. They have organized 2 year capacity building initiatives that strengthen the presence of the refugee community, these projects called ‘Supporting RCOs’ have engaged with client groups and stakeholders, policy-makers, strategic planners and influence local authorities about their progress in the Refugee Community Organisations. [11]

Extensive training is held for refugees and IDPs on organisational development, fundraising and other forms of income generation, personality development, language learning and equality based services all of which vary from country to country. What many do not understand is that refugees are not permitted to work nor are they provided with shelter or basic food. They live off donations and state support, as little as £5 per day for much of their lives, which are spent in makeshift camps and tents. Hiddens areas such as Calais in France house persons from Eritrea, and North Africa who receive support from France, Germany and the United Kingdom.[12] Those who think they have escaped scrutiny and violence in their home countries are now exposed to sexual harassment and assaults but are unable to report it due to fear of being deported, being picked up and put in detention. As the world realizes the worsening situation of these displaced individuals, the Refugee Council has pledged to make a difference. 

Russia and Ukraine

The Crimean Peninsula, surrounded by the Black sea and the Sea of Azov. It is separated from Russia by narrow Kerch Strait and has been under the UNHCR’s radar for the last few years. This resourceful territory has been an independent part of Ukraine but then annexed by Russia in February-March 2014.The economic and political standstill was was an opportune time to hold an illegal referendum and make Crimea a part of the Russian Federation.Due to this Russia has been under scrutiny of International partners and the United Nations.[13] Having been called the worst move the world has seen since the East-West crisis since the Cold War, Russia has gained the support of only few, comparatively less powerful states. The citizens of the peninsula, around 2 million individuals have suffered greatly amidst the political drama. Populated areas such as Luhansk and Donetsk are now deserted and little if at all any aid is being received by those affected.

On September 1st, the first UNHCR convoy was allowed to enter Horlivka and other nearby areas north of Donetsk in Eastern Ukraine by the Government. Since the heavy fighting in August, 40% of the population has left, 13 trucks carrying 260 metric tons of relief material was sent to the remaining population, preparing for winter. As the number of IDPs is close to 1 million, those suffering are yet to receive basic necessities like shelter and water. Around 1/6th of the Ukrainian population has applied for asylum in neighbouring countries since February due to large destruction of infrastructure. People are faced with the dangers of surviving in a conflicted region and are being forced to move to the central, western and southern parts of the country, while their governments are torn in a dispute that may take years to solve.[14]

United States of America

The States are currently accommodating 455,048 persons of concern and this number will only rise in the coming years due to the rising violence in the Southern Americas, many children few with families choose to attain refugee status by entering the United States.[15] Non Governmental bodies and the UNHCR work closely with both the government and the judiciary aiming to make the process of attaining status easier, other issues that are discussed include establishing a transit centre for refugees and those seeking resettlement, enhancing regional support and presenting alternatives to detention.

The main concentration is towards global programmes improving stability and safety, trying to find a way around the extensive legal procedures, more than 1.3 million USD was donated by the US government.[16] The 1980 Refugee Act was enacted by the constitution ensuring proper care and an increase in the number of intake of refugees. Acceptance of refugees by the citizens of the nation has been another important issue and it decides the fate of their future. Many times refugees are sent back due to past actions or violent behaviours showing that the United States although willing to help those in need always puts security first.


The only reason people have started understanding the increasing dangers faced by those trying to restore normality in their lives, is when 3 year old Aylan Kurdi’s dead body rushed ashore at a Turkish beach resort. Everyday hundreds of thousands of people try to travel from Greece and Budapest to countries like Turkey, Germany and Italy, further away from the crisis. In the last year, European Union members received 132,405 requests for asylum out of which 109,110 were rejected. When accepted refugees attain protection, refugee status, subsidiary protection and humanitarian benefits. Italy, Sweden, France and Germany have attended to two-thirds of the applications while Hungary, Serbia, Kosovo and Austria will receive 80% of asylum seekers.[17] The Dublin Regulation states that refugees can only apply for asylum in the country they first arrive in, even applications from an embassy are invalid.

The only country to upend this regulation is Germany hoping others will follow suit. This is a goldmine for human traffickers who lure those in need and ruin their lives completely. Over 2,800 people have died or gone missing while trying to cross the Mediterranean paying smugglers to get them across the high tide. What is surprising is that the Arab community has turned its back on refugees, the total amount of people granted asylum in the Gulf is zero. A year long naval and air operation was commenced by Italy, Operation Mare Nostrum has helped 150,000 migrants arrive safely to Europe.[18]The Italian Navy took charge near the coast of Libya.

This operation has saved thousands of lives but was politically unpopular and costly a large amount funded by only Italians, although funds were requested there was no follow up made by other EU members. The sister Operation Triton was initiated instead and performed smaller rescue operations. Termination of Operation Mare Nostrum brought criticism to the European Union as the number of dead gradually increased. Support was doubled when on the 2nd of September, Russia announced that the United Nations Security Council was in the process of drafting a resolution that addressed this crisis. International Organisations such as Amnesty International reprimanded European governments due to their lack of initiative during this humanitarian crisis, turning its back on its responsibilities and threatening thousands of lives.

Possible Solutions: The Way Forward 

Most would believe ending the ongoing civil wars would curb destruction and the crisis of refugees, but this is incorrect. The unnoticed requirement is a radical need for change, especially in countries like Syria and Yemen where the youth has suffered through a majority of psychological problems caused by poverty, high population growth, discrimination and suppression of opinion which has caused a widespread revolt and a thirst for power in turn increasing the influence of non state actors. History shows us the duration of a civil war on average is 10 years and more than a million deaths take place, the end of these cannot be precedented. Settlements often include 3 parties, 2 opposing each other and a third like the United Nations which ensures peace during the process, the government formed includes individuals from both parties but in countries like Syria this negotiation is unlikely to come through due to extremist views.[19]

Before Peacekeeping forces, shelter materials and aid need to be transported to those in need especially in areas of harsh climate, although direct communication is deemed impossible local organisations should be kept in charge of delivering aid as they have better knowledge of the geography of the area. Current developing nations should ensure their governments fulfill the needs of their citizens and prevent any sort of conflict. The aim of the United Nations is to prevent such conflicts and save lives of those who are unable to protect themselves from advancements in technology and defense, this General Assembly should focus on creating plausible, internationally accepted and long term solutions including aid provisions, basic shelter, water and education.

[1]  Zachary Laub, Syria’s War and the Descent Into Horror, Council on foreign Relation, (July.19, 2020, 8:00 AM),

[2] Veronika Fajth & Özge Bilgili & Craig Loschmann & Melissa Siegel , How do refugees affect social life in host communities? The case of Congolese refugees in Rwanda, Comparative Migration Studies(2019)

[3] Supra 6

[4] Griff Witte & Luisa Beck, Angela Merkel welcomed refugees to Germany. They’re starting to help the economy, The Washington Post, (July.20, 2020, 8:00 PM), pe/angela-merkel-welcomed-refugees-to-germany-theyre-starting-to-help-the-economy/2019/05/03/4bafa36e-6b60-11e9-bbe7-1c798fb80536_story.html 

[5] Elena Ianchovichina    & Maros Ivanic , How much has the Syrian war cost the Levant,, (July.19, 2020, 10:00 AM),

[6] ELENA IANCHOVICHINA & MAROS IVANIC , The Economic Impact of the Syrian War and the Spread of ISIS: Who Loses & How Much, World Bank Blogs,( July.20, 2020, 10:50 AM),

[7] Jennifer Cafarella, LIKELY COURSES OF ACTION IN THE SYRIAN CIVIL WAR: JUNE – DECEMBER 2015,Institute For The Study of War( July.19, 2020, 1:00 PM),

[8] What does the Boko Haram-ISIS alliance mean for terrorism in Africa, Institute For Security Studies , ( July.19, 2020, 2:00 PM),


[10] TRENDS AT A GLANCE, United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees (July.19, 2020, 4:00 PM),

[11] Joanna Nassar & Dawn Chatty & Ibrahim Awad, Refugee Crises in the Arab World,,( July.19, 2020, 4:00 PM),

[12] French Dunkirk camp cleared as migrants try to reach UK,BBC NEWS,( July.19, 2020, 5:00 PM),

[13]  Tom Balmforth, Violence, ‘Hypocrisy’ In Catalonia: Russia Reacts To Spanish Turmoil, Radio Free Europe Radio Liberty, (July.19, 2020, 5:00 PM),

[14] William Spindler, Ukraine internal displacement nears 1 million as fighting escalates in Donetsk region,UNHCR,( July.21, 2020, 5:00 PM),

[15] An Overview of U.S. Refugee Law and Policy,American Immigration Council ,( July.19, 2020, 5:00 PM),

[16] Migration and Its Impact on Cities,World Economic Forum,( July.20, 2020, 5:00 PM),

[17] EU Policies Put Refugees At Risk,Human Rights Watch,( July.21, 2020, 5:00 PM),

[18] Camino Mortera-Martinez & Rem Korteweg ,DEAD IN THE WATER: FIXING THE EU’S FAILED APPROACH TO MEDITERRANEAN MIGRANTS, Centre for European Reform,( July.20, 2020, 5:00 PM),

[19] Gary Pinkus & Sree Ramaswamy ,The ‘war’ on COVID-19: What real wars do (and don’t) teach us about the economic impact of the pandemic,,( July.20, 2020, 5:00 PM), business-functions/strategy-and-corporate-finance/our-insights/the-war-on-covid-19-what-real-wars-do-and-dont-teach-us-about-the-economic-impact-of-the-pandemic#.


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