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Displaced persons

Migration A–Z


  1. Bernard Maegi

Published Online: 4 FEB 2013

DOI: 10.1002/9781444351071.wbeghm178

The Encyclopedia of Global Human Migration

The Encyclopedia of Global Human Migration

How to Cite

Maegi, B. 2013. Displaced persons. The Encyclopedia of Global Human Migration. .

Publication History

  1. Published Online: 4 FEB 2013


Historically, “Displaced Persons” – also known as “DPs” – were European refugees uprooted by World War II, the Holocaust, and the Soviet occupation of Central and Eastern Europe. The term has subsequently been applied to many refugees across the world uprooted by persecution, political collapse, war, famine, or natural disaster, whether or not they cross an international border in their flight. Displaced persons are involuntary migrants, forced to move by extraordinary circumstances from their homes or countries of origin to what they hope will be a place of safety. At the time of their migration, some displaced persons may believe that their status will be temporary; only later may they come to realize that their displacement is permanent. Other displaced persons migrate assuming that they will never return to their homes or countries of origin, but instead will have to create a new life for themselves in another country. Given the involuntary nature of their migration and their shared and often traumatic experiences, many displaced persons form close-knit communities and create cultures of exile that attempt to preserve the memories of their homelands before their uprooting.


  • civil war;
  • ethnic cleansing;
  • ethnic conflict;
  • human trafficking;
  • political asylum