A refugee is a person as a result of events occurring before 1 of January 1951 and owing to a well-founded fear of being persecuted for reasons of race, religion, nationality, membership of a particular social group or political opinion, is outside the country of his nationality and is unable or, owing to such fear, is unwilling to avail himself to the protection of this country.
Refugees are protected in international law by 1951 Geneva Convention related to the status of refugees and the 1967 Protocols Relating to the Status of Refugees.
On the other hand, Internally Displaced Persons (IDPs) are persons or group of persons who have been forced or obliged to flee or to leave their homes or places of habitual residence, in particular as a result of or in order to avoid the effects of armed conflict, situations of generalised violence, violations of human rights or natural or human-made disasters, and who have not crossed an internationally recognised state border.
Total number of IDPs world wide is estimated to be by December 2007 26 million distributed over 52 countries, compared to an estimated total number of refugees 14.5 million.
IDPs, unlike refugees, are not protected by the abovementioned laws, mostly due to the fact that first they do not fall under the defining of refugees, and secondly, because they remain in their country of origin which is responsible for offering such protection. This is further complicated by the political implication of such external protection which could, potentially, amount to an intervention in internal affairs if enforced.
However, it is clear that all these millions, some of whom are displaced because of the actions of their governments, cannot be left without any protection. Here, International Human Rights Laws, which aim at protection all human beings regardless of displacement issues or otherwise, International Humanitarian Laws and the Geneva Convention of 1949 and the two additional protocols of 1977, as well as the International Refugee laws where utilised to put down what is known the Guiding Principles On Internal Displacement, which set out the rights and guarantees relevant to the protection of IDPs in all phases of displacement, providing protection against arbitrary displacement; protection and assistance during displacement; and during return or internal resettlement and reintegration. 2008 witnesses the 10th anniversary of the Guiding Principles. One can obtain more information by visiting the special page on Forced Migration Review on this matter: www.fmreview.org/Guiding Principles10.htm