Displacement forms part of virtually any major crisis. It introduces a level of complexity when providing social assistance that leads to a specific, usually context-dependent set of challenges. It is widely recognised that the vast majority of displaced people will travel as short a distance as possible to reach safety, whether as Internally Displaced Persons (IDPs), refugees or irregular migrants in neighbouring countries.
Displaced people are disproportionately hosted in low- and middle-income countries, and the length of their displacement is increasing. This highlights the urgent priority of displacement; indeed, it has received sustained attention from the highest levels of global decision-making, particularly since 2016, including two Global Compacts in 2018 (Global Compact for Migration, Global Compact for Safe, Orderly and Regular Migration). Although some have argued that such global summits offer a replacement for meaningful action, these events at least highlight clear political will to shift the emphasis from humanitarian responses to a much longer-term development focus. Interest in social assistance and displacement has also grown since 2018 and resulting policy must respond to this concern for more sustainable responses. High-level commitments are slowly filtering through to policy, while recent research has provided clear frameworks for analysing developing policy approaches. Gaps remain in the analysis of policy implementation and in the assessment of how to access social assistance beyond official state channels.