Counting forced migrants runs into a number of hurdles related to their classification, to their experience of flight, and to the need to use myriad sources of data from governments, international organisations, and non-governmental organisations. To complicate matters, three organisations have mandates to count different groups – the un Relief Works Agency (unrwa) for Palestine refugees, the un High Commission for Refugees (unhcr) for refugees more generally, and the Internal Displacement Monitoring Centre (idmc) for internally displaced persons (idps). All three face a range of common challenges in carrying out this vital aspect of their respective mandates. These include conceptual challenges, political concerns, competing interests and access. They also face their own political and institutional challenges, leading to individualised approaches and variance across and even within the organisations. In spite of these complexities, there have been significant improvements in the reliability of data and new technologies and registration methods are providing a way forward to a better understanding of forced migrant movements.
Walter Kälin, “The Guiding Principles on Internal Displacement and the Search for a Universal Framework of Protection for Internally Displaced Persons” in Research Handbook on International Law and Migration, ed. Vincent Chetail and Celine Bauloz (Cheltenham: Edward Elgar, 2014).
Aninia Nadig, “Forced Migration and Global Processes-Report of the Eighth Conference of the International Association for the Study of Forced Migration, Chiang Mai, Thailand, 5–9 January 2003,”Journal of Refugee Studies16 (2003): 361.
Jerzy Sztucki, “Who Is a Refugee? The Convention Definition: Universal or Obsolete?,” in Refugee Rights and Realities: Evolving International Concepts and Regimes, ed. Frances Nicholson and Patrick M. Twomey (Cambridge Cambridge University Press, 1999), 58.
Goodwin-Gill and McAdam, The Refugee in International Law, 301; Brian Gorlick, “The Convention and the Committee against Torture: A Complementary Protection Regime for Refugees,” International Journal of Refugee Law 11, no. 3 (1999): 481–82.
Chris de Wet, “Spatial- and Complexity-based Perspective on the Ethics of Development-induced Displacement and Resettlement,” in Development-induced Displacement and Resettlement: New Perspectives on Persisting Problems, ed. Irge Satiroglu and Narae Choi. (New York: Routledge, 2015), 86.