Apr 25, 2018
Journal of Peace Research
Refugees and internally displaced people (IDPs) are not always safe where they resettle in ethnic civil wars, in which civilians’ identities overlap with the ethnic profile of armed combatants. This article argues that IDPs are also vulnerable in non-ethnic civil wars, through two related mechanisms that indicate civilians’ loyalties: (1) where the displaced are from and when they left; and (2) resettlement patterns. The first can suggest loyalties when the displacement is associated with territorial conquest and expulsion of suspected sympathizers. In turn, the displaced would be considered disloyal by the armed group responsible for the expulsion, and could be subject to further violence where they resettle. The second mechanism relates to the first: if displaced civilians are considered disloyal, then resettling with other, similarly stigmatized civilians can improve their security by reducing the household’s risk of discovery. However, clustering together with other IDPs can have a perverse effect: even though living in an enclave may reduce a particular household’s likelihood of suffering violence, the group itself is endangered because it is more easily detected. Armed groups can collectively target IDPs who resettle in clusters, either for strategic or retributive reasons. Implications of the argument are tested with detailed subnational panel data on IDP arrivals and massacres in Colombia, and the analyses provide support for the argument. The findings indicate that collective targeting of IDPs occurs even in civil wars without an ethnic cleavage, following voluntary resettlement patterns, and reinforces IDP security as a policy priority.