The HRAS Interview: Alexandra Bilak – Director Norwegian Refugee Council’s Internal Displacement Monitoring Centre

Migrants are the tip of the iceberg

Hundreds of thousands of people have put their life at risk at sea to reach European shores. Their bravery and despair has drawn wide media attention. In reality, though, they are the tip of the iceberg.

There were 40.8 million people displaced within national borders worldwide as a result of conflict and violence at the end of 2015 – the highest figure ever recorded and twice the number of refugees in the world.

Alexandra-BilakHuman Rights at Sea spoke to Alexandra Bilak, political scientist and Director of the Norwegian Refugee Council’s Internal Displacement Monitoring Centre, to find out about the plight of these people.

Alexandra lived and worked in the Democratic Republic of Congo and Kenya for 10 years and has worked extensively across Central, East and West Africa. She has directed a number of projects on forced migration in conflict and post-conflict contexts and has published extensively on these themes.

HRAS: Where are these 40.8 million internally displaced people?

Colombia, the Democratic Republic of Congo, Iraq, Sudan and South Sudan have featured in the list of the ten largest internally displaced populations every year since 2003.

In 2015, there were 27.8 million new displacements associated with conflict, violence and disasters in 127 countries. This is roughly equivalent to every man, woman and child in New York City, London, Paris and Cairo grabbing what they could carry and fleeing their homes in search of safety.

Yemen, Syria and Iraq accounted for over half of this total. Outside the Middle East, the countries with the highest numbers of people fleeing were Ukraine, Nigeria, Democratic Republic of Congo, Afghanistan, Colombia, Central African Republic and South Sudan.

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