Since the end of the Cold War, increasing numbers of people have been forced to leave their homes as a result of armed conflict, internal strife, and systematic violations of human rights. Whereas refugees crossing national borders benefit from an established system of international protection and assistance, those who are displaced internally suffer from an absence of legal or institutional bases for their protection and assistance from the international community.
Climate change is likely to entail serious implications for many countries through its impacts on food and water supplies and rises in sea levels. Climate change may therefore exacerbate current problems in regions and indirectly lead to population displacement.
Major development projects, such as the large dams funded by the World Bank, have resulted in the involuntary resettlement of large numbers of people. Ghana's Volta Dam saw the evacuation of some 78,000 people from over 700 towns and villages. The huge Sardar Sarovar dam and irrigation projects on the Narmada River in India will displace more than 240,000 people when completed around the middle of the 1990's. The Bank estimates that projects underway in 1993 will displace 756,000 people in East Asia, 837,585 in South Asia, 239,875 in Latin America and 120,000 in Africa. A further 600,000 will be moved in 1994. 1993 reports to the Bank's executive indicated that as a result their condition has been worsened, typically with a further reduction of income. For example, in India where 800,000 people have been evicted the overall record is poor to the extent of being unacceptable. People left homeless in this way are often forced into virgin forestlands where they destroy natural resources. In such cases it is the landless labourers, tenants, squatters and cultivators with only customary tenure rights that suffer the most. Most are excluded from compensation by their governments and are displaced without any adequate knowledge of what will happen to them. In 1994 a confidential World Bank report indicated that more than 30 million Chinese had been evicted from their homes in the previous four decades, being forced to move in favour of road, railway and reservoir projects; in one case 150,000 people moved 30 years previously were still living in temporary shelters. In the case of the Three Gorges Dam, based on a feasibility study of the World Bank in 1988, over 1 million people were scheduled to be displaced. The report indicated that some 32 projects funded by the Bank would require the resettlement of 473,000 people.
Forced resettlement also occurs on the occasion of war as in the case of the 3.25 million Sudeten Germans who settled (or fled) following the World War II, with the agreement of the Allies. Fatalities associated with mass deportation and forced resettlement put the number of victims in the former USSR at between 7 and 10 million, and in China at about 27 million.
Governments may move communities and tribal groups against their wishes to exploit their land or to break their resistance to assimilation or political domination. Such programmes are usually carried out with little regard for the social impact on family groups or communities, for the health of those concerned or for their means of livelihood at their destination. Villagers may be tempted to accede to such relocation without adequate information having been communicated to them to make an adequate decision. In the course of forced agricultural resettlement programmes, such as the Indonesian 'trans-migration' settlement of one million in Irian Jaya and West Papua, gender inequalities are frequently intensified and cultures disrupted. New land titles and jobs are handed out to the male head of household, leaving women without access to an independent source of income, or land on which to grow food or crops.
There was a large resettlement of Slovak Gypsies in the Czech part of the former federal republic. This happened after World War II in order to fill the void left by deported Germans. Most Roma living in the Czech lands now are descendants of these immigrants. Czech Republic was reluctant to award these people with Czech citizenship when Czechoslovakia split in 1993.