What does it mean to be a displaced person?


Nelson-Mandela-QuoteAt The Little Market, our mission is dedicated to supporting dignified income opportunities for individuals in marginalized communities all over the world. A core part of our mission is to raise awareness of human rights and social justice issues. Here on Cultural Exchange, we share avenues in which our readers can use their voices and actions to support and uplift others.

The United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees’ 2018 Global Trends Report found the displacement of people has doubled since 2012, with two-thirds originating from five countries. There are various legal categories recognized by international law, intended to provide some protection to displaced people. The Little Market is proud to carry ethically sourced products made by displaced, refugee, and resettled artisans, supporting social and economic opportunities. Keep reading to learn about the types of displacement caused by war, persecution, conflict, and human rights violations. 

Internally Displaced Person1 (IDP)

 A person forced to flee their community of origin, but does not cross an international border. As of 2019, there are 41.3 million people who are internally displaced around the world. Internal conflict and natural disasters are the main causes of displacement, according to the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR). IDPs are entitled to federal aid in their home country, regardless of legal status. The international community may alleviate internal displacement through foreign aid; this support is voluntary. Countries with the largest internally displaced populations include Colombia, Syria, the Democratic Republic of Congo, and Somalia.

Asylum Seeker2 

Legal definition for a person who leaves a home country as a political refugee and seeks sanctuary in another. In 2018, there were approximately 1.7 million new asylum claims globally.


Legal definition for a person who is forced out of a home country by war, persecution, or natural disaster. As of 2019, about 67 percent of refugees originate from Syria, Afghanistan, South Sudan, Myanmar, and Somalia. Since ratification, the 1951 Geneva Convention has been the main international instrument for the legal protection of refugees. The primary refugee-hosting countries include Germany, Sudan, Uganda, Pakistan, and Turkey.


Legal definition for individuals who are not considered citizens or nationals under the legal framework of any country. Stateless populations do not have access to basic rights including education, healthcare, employment, and freedom of movement. As of 2018, there are 10 million people around the world who are stateless or at risk of statelessness. As of 2019, only 3.9 million have been formally identified as stateless, but this is thought to be a higher number.


A person who leaves the country of birth and permanently relocates in another country. The main push factors for emigration (leaving the country of origin) are a lack of safety, limited economic opportunities, environmental crises, and social inequality

Rise of Venezuelan Asylum Seekers

Since 2014, there has been a 4,000 percent increase in Venezuelans seeking refugee status, according to the UNHCR. As of 2018, Venezuela is home to the greatest number of asylum seekers — 341,800. 

At the end of that same year, 3.4 million Venezuelans fled their country escaping violence, poverty, and a lack of medical care. Many are seeking alt-legal status as it expedites access to work permits and other social benefits. Obtaining refugee status is a far more challenging and lengthy process. The UNHCR is working on providing aid for asylum seekers and refugees who are in a vulnerable position.

U.S.-Mexico Border Crisis

There is a growing number of migrants sidelined along the U.S.-Mexico border seeking refuge in the U.S. According to the BBC, 92,959 asylum seekers traveling toward the U.S. southern border have credible asylum claims.6 The BBC also reports that the highest number of migrants ever apprehended at the U.S.-Mexico border was recorded in May of 2019 with a total of 132, 887.7 The previous record was in 2007, with a total of 100,000 detentions. By October 2018, over 2,654 detained children were separated from their parents. Apprehended migrants and detainees report not having access to toiletries, proper bedding, and lacking access to healthcare and nutritious meals.


In light of the humanitarian crisis, The Little Market has partnered with the This is About Humanity Fund and the International Community Foundation, which work closely to meet the needs of displaced peoples including immigrants, refugees, and asylum seekers. The organization advocates for the human rights of these communities while supporting housing, medical care, and on-the-ground relief efforts.

Tools, Resources, + How to Help 

The Know Your Rights tool provided by the American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU) is available for immigrants to understand guaranteed rights under the Constitution regardless of their immigration status.

Organizations such as Amnesty International’s I Welcome program and The Asylum Seeker Assistance Project are focused on guiding not only asylum seekers in resettlement but also teaching individuals how to welcome refugees into their communities. 

Shop our collection of This is About Humanity to help migrant families at the border. 

“What is a Refugee?” United Nations. United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees. Web. and “Global Report on Internal Displacement.” Norwegian Refugee Council. Internal Displacement Monitoring Centre. May 2019. Web.
5 Giovetti, Olivia. “Forced Migration: 6 Causes and Examples.” Concern Worldwide. 28 June 2019. Web.
“Is there a crisis on the US-Mexico border?” BBC News. 11 July 2019. Web.
“Global Trends – Forced Displacement in 2018.” United Nations. United United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees. Web. 
“FAMILY SEPARATION by the Numbers.”American Civil Liberties Union. Web.

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