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 internally displaced of Iraq
Eight years after the fall of Saddam Hussein's regime, over 1.5 million people remain displaced throughout Iraq, including 500,000 who live in dire conditions in settlements or public buildings. For these very vulnerable people, daily life is a struggle with limited access to clean water, electricity, heath services or schools for their children. Many families who live illegally in informal settlements are at risk of eviction. Most of the internally displaced fled their homes because of sectarian violence which erupted in 2006 following the bombing of the Al-Askari shrine in Samarra. UNHCR works with the Government of Iraq on projects such as land allocation; shelter assistance and house reconstruction to try to find long term solutions for the displaced.
Beyond the Border
In 2010, the Turkish border with Greece became the main entry point for people attempting by irregular methods to reach member states of the European Union, with over 132,000 arrivals. While some entered as migrants with the simple wish of finding a better life, a significant number fled violence or persecution in countries such as Afghanistan, Eritrea, Iraq and Somalia. The journey is perilous, with many reports of drowning when people board flimsy vessels and try to cross the Mediterranean Sea or the River Evros on the border between Greece and Turkey. The many deficiencies in the Greek asylum system are exacerbated by the pressure of tens of thousands of people awaiting asylum hearings. Reception facilities for new arrivals, including asylum-seekers, are woefully inadequate. Last year, UNHCR visited a number of overcrowded facilities where children, men and women were detained in cramped rooms with insufficient facilities. UNHCR is working with the Greek government to improve its asylum system and has called upon other European states to offer support.
Southerners on the move before Sudanese vote
Ahead of South Sudan's landmark January 9, 2011 referendum on independence, tens of thousands of southern Sudanese in the North packed their belongings and made the long trek south. UNHCR set up way stations at key points along the route to provide food and shelter to the travellers during their arduous journey. Several reports of rapes and attacks on travellers reinforced the need for these reception centres, where women, children and people living with disabilities can spend the night. UNHCR has made contingency plans in the event of mass displacement after the vote, including the stockpiling of shelter and basic provisions for up to 50,000 people.
60 Years in Photos
For more than six decades UNHCR has been helping the world's uprooted peoples.
The agency's first task was to help an estimated 1 million, mainly European civilians, who remained displaced in the aftermath of World War Two.
But during the 1950s the refugee crisis spread to Africa, later to Asia and then back to Europe, becoming a global problem.
At the end of 2009, on the eve of its 60th birthday, more than 26 million forcibly displaced people were receiving protection or assistance frpm UNHCR. During its lifetime, the agency has assisted more than 50 million refugees to successfully restart their lives. More than half of the refugees the agency helps now live in urban areas.
In the past two decades, UNHCR has been helping increasing numbers of internally displaced people as part of an inter-agency approach. UNHCR has also been helping hundreds of thousands of people displaced by the crisis in Iraq, both inside and outside the country. UNHCR also has a mandate to help the world's stateless people, who number an estimated 12 million.
This is a pictorial history of those turbulent years, UNHCR's role and the struggle for survival of one of the world's most vulnerable groups of people.
Struggling with the threat of extinction
Among Colombia's many indigenous groups threatened with extinction, few are in a riskier situation than the Tule. There are only about 1,200 of them left in three locations in the neighbouring departments of Choco and Antiquoia in north-western Colombia.
One group of 500 live in Choco's Unguia municipality, a strategically important area on the border with Panama that is rich in timber, minerals and other natural resources. Unfortunately, these riches have attracted the attention of criminal and illegal armed groups over the past decade.
Many tribe members have sought shelter in Panama or elsewhere in Choco. But a determined core decided to stay, fearing that the tribe would never survive if they left their ancestral lands and gave up their traditional way of life.
UNHCR has long understood and sympathized with such concerns, and the refugee agency has helped draw up a strategy to prevent displacement, or at least ensure that the Tule never have to leave their territory permanently.