Displaced from Countries that Don’t Exist: IDPs, Refugees, and Frozen Conflicts

What happens to people displaced from countries that don’t exist? Those displaced from ISIS- or Donetsk People's Republic (DNR)-controlled territories have had to confront this very question. They are, as a technical matter, categorized as Internally Displaced Persons (IDPs) rather than refugees, due to international non-recognition of the states from which they have been displaced; and as such, these individuals have been particularly affected by the lack of consensus on how to deal with IDPs. The experiences of individuals displaced during now-frozen conflicts following the fall of communist regimes in the Balkans and Caucasus suggest that they are unlikely to enjoy many of the legal protections afforded to refugees. The combination of a weak international legal regime to govern IDPs and de jure states’ political disincentives to integrate them suggests that they will not enjoy such protections until either a legally binding IDP regime is developed or the frozen conflicts become resolved.