Putting Our Work into Focus
A picture tells a thousand words - and UNHCR has more than 250,000 of them dating back decades. The agency's photo library in Geneva is guardian of the world's largest collection of refugee-related photos covering nearly all of the major displacements of the last 60 years. These images provide a comprehensive portrait of the lives of refugees, asylum seekers, internally displaced people and the stateless in all corners of the globe, as well as the work of the thousands of UN staff who have helped them. Many of our best photos are showcased on this website and on the social networking site, Flickr. We offer the use of our photos free to the media.
The World's Stateless: A photo essay by Greg Constantine
Nationality might seem like a universal birthright, but it is estimated that up to 12 million people around the world are struggling to get along without it. They do not possess a nationality nor enjoy its legal benefits. They fall into a legal limbo; they are stateless. This often leaves them unable to do the basic things most people take for granted such as registering the birth of a child, travelling, going to school, opening a bank account or owning property.
Statelessness has a variety of causes. Some populations were excluded from citizenship at the time of independence from colonial rule. Others fall victim to mass denationalization. In some countries, women cannot confer nationality on their children. Sometimes, because of discrimination, legislation fails to guarantee citizenship for certain ethnic groups.
The problem is global. Under its statelessness mandate, UNHCR is advising stateless people on their rights and assisting them in acquiring citizenship. At the government level, it is supporting legal reform to prevent people from becoming stateless. With partners it undertakes citizenship campaigns to help stateless people to acquire nationality and documentation.
Photographer Greg Constantine is an award-winning photojournalist from the United States. In 2005, he moved to Asia and began work on his project, "Nowhere People," which documents the plight of stateless people around the world. His work has received a number of awards, including from Pictures of the Year International, NPPA Best of Photojournalism, the Amnesty International Human Rights Press Awards (Hong Kong), the Society of Publishers in Asia, and the Harry Chapin Media Award for Photojournalism. Greg was a co-winner of the Osborn Elliot Prize for Journalism in Asia, presented annually by the Asia Society. Work from "Nowhere People" has been widely published and exhibited in Bangladesh, Cambodia, Thailand, Malaysia, Japan, Switzerland, Ukraine, Hong Kong and Kenya. He is based in Southeast Asia.
Somalia Airlift: UNHCR flies aid to Mogadishu for first time in 5 years.
For the first time in five years, UNHCR has been able to airlift vital humanitarian aid to the conflict-ravaged Somalia capital of Mogadishu. Tens of thousands of Somalis, fleeing drought and famine, have descended on the city in recent weeks searching for food, water, medicine and other assistance.
Three UNHCR-chartered aircraft have brought around 100 tonnes of aid to Mogadishu since August 8. The aircraft carried relief items from the agency's emergency stockpile in Dubai. The latest shipment includes high energy protein biscuits, plastic sheeting for shelter, sleeping mats, blankets, jerry cans for water and kitchen utensils.
The UN refugee agency usually delivers relief items to Mogadishu by sea and land for security reasons, but - due to the unprecedented rise in the number of uprooted civilians - UNHCR decided to airlift supplies in order to save time. There are now around half-a-million internally displaced people in Mogadishu.
Somalia Emergency: Refugees move into Ifo Extension
The UN refugee agency has moved 4,700 Somali refugees from the outskirts of Kenya's Dadaab refugee complex into the Ifo Extension site since 25 July 2011. The ongoing relocation movement is transferring 1,500 people a day and the pace will soon increase to 2,500 to 3,000 people per day.
The refugees had arrived in recent weeks and months after fleeing drought and conflict in Somalia. They settled spontaneously on the edge of Ifo camp, one of three existing camps in the Dadaab complex, that has been overwhelmed by the steadily growing influx of refugees.
The new Ifo Extension site will provide tented accommodation to 90,000 refugees in the coming months. Latrines and water reservoirs have been constructed and are already in use by the families that have moved to this site.
Galkayo: Vulnerable in a volatile land
Galkayo, located in Somalia's Puntland region, is home to more than 60,000 displaced people who fled war-torn south-central Somalia and harsh drought conditions in many parts of the country.
The displaced people are scattered around 21 makeshift settlements in Galkayo. Multiple families often share small, rudimentary shelters made of cardboard and plastic sheets. Despite overcrowding and extreme poverty, it is not uncommon for families to take in abandoned children and elderly people who are on their own.
Squalid conditions and lack of proper health care mean that simple ailments can easily develop into complications. There is little employment in Galkayo and most displaced people find informal day labour, such as collecting garbage or washing clothes for the locals.
UNHCR provides basic assistance to Galkayo's displaced people through vocational training and income generation programs meant to improve their livelihoods. The refugee agency also provides temporary shelter and emergency relief items for vulnerable families.
Bossaso: Life on the edge
The port of Bossasso, located in Somalia's northern Puntland region, is the main departure point for the tens of thousands of asylum-seekers and migrants who risk their lives in crossing the Gulf of Aden to reach Yemen.
In addition to those using Bossaso as a transit point, some 50,000 Somalis have sought refuge there after fleeing from their homes to escape conflict. Life is difficult for these internally displaced people, who live in 26 settlements, mostly on private lots around the city. Their crude homes are made from scraps of cardboard and plastic. The combination of overcrowding in the settlements and the use of very flammable building materials means that fires break out on a regular basis, seriously injuring people and destroying their shelters and belongings. Displaced families are also often at risk of being forcibly evicted by the private landlords.
UNHCR and its implementing partners try and improve the lives of these communities through small-scale projects, including income-generation activities and awareness programmes on issues such as sexual and gender-based violence.