For Displaced Persons, No Easy Answers

Article excerpt

They are not legally refugees, since they haven't crossed a border. But violence pursues them and leaves them homeless in their own homelands.

Relief workers call them "displaced persons," and their numbers are escalating just as quickly as the refugee population.

The U.N. high commissioner for refugees estimates that there are 26 million displaced persons in the world, a number even greater than the refugee population.

In Angola, more than 2 million displaced families are scattered around camps, dependent on foreign donors for the food they eat.

In Afghanistan, 400,000 homeless people in Kabul live among the rubble of what was once a prosperous city of several million.

In Sudan, four out of five people in the south of the country have been forced from their homes at least once in the last 10 years.

The displaced can be found wherever civil conflict is forcing people to run for cover. But the sacrosanct right to asylum for refugees, upheld by 121 U.N. members, does not automatically apply to the displaced. As long as the displaced stay inside their countries, the rule of that land is the only one that applies. …