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 Most Important Thing – Malian Refugees in Burkina Faso
"The Most Important Thing" documents - in words and pictures - some of the tough decisions people face when they have to flee their home. With support from UNHCR, American photographer Brian Sokol began the project in South Sudan, taking portraits of Sudanese refugees carrying the most valuable possession they brought with them into exile. He also asked them to explain their decision. Sokol continued with Syrian refugees in Iraq and in this photo essay looks at Malians in refugee camps in neighbouring Burkina Faso. While the photographs may reveal a fair amount about the subjects, it is their words - their stories - that share far more.
For the Sudanese, the most important things were primarily objects to keep them alive during their long, difficult journey: a pot, an axe, a water jug or a basket. For Syrians, the objects were largely sentimental: an old ring, a torn photograph, the key to a door that may no longer exist. Among the Malians depicted in this photo gallery, the objects largely had to do with their cultural identity. They spoke of how the items helped them to still feel part of their people, despite being forced into exile.
UNHCR Special Envoy Angelina Jolie meets with newly arrived Syrian refugees in Jordan
UNHCR Special Envoy Angelina Jolie traveled to Jordan's border with Syria on 18 June at the start of a visit to mark World Refugee Day. She met with refugees as they were arriving and listened to their stories of escape.She urged the international community to do more to help the survivors of the conflict and the countries hosting them. "The worst humanitarian crisis of the 21st century is unfolding in the Middle East today," she said."The international response to this crisis falls short of the vast scale of this human tragedy. Much more humanitarian aid is needed, and above all, a political settlement to this conflict must be found." The war in Syria forced more people to flee last year than any other conflict in the world. In the past six months, the number has more than doubled to 1.6 million, of whom 540,000 are in Jordan. During her visit to Jordan, Ms. Jolie will join the UN High Commissioner for Refugees, António Guterres, to meet with government officials and refugees.
Growing Numbers of Syrians Seek Refuge in Egypt
Since the Syrian crisis erupted in March 2011, more than 1.6 million Syrians have fled their homeland to escape the fighting. Most have sought shelter in countries neighbouring Syria - Iraq, Jordan, Lebanon and Turkey. But a significant number have made their way to Egypt in recent months. They are coming by air from Lebanon after leaving Syria, and also by sea. Since March, UNHCR has been registering about 2,000 a week. To date, almost 80,000 have registered as refugees, with half of them women and children. UNHCR believes there may be many more and the refugee agency is reaching out to these people so that they can receive vital protection and assistance and get access to basic services. The Syrians are staying with host families or renting apartments, mainly in urban centres such as Cairo, Sixth of October City, Alexandria and Damietta. The refugees heading to Egypt say they are attracted by its open door policy for Syrian refugees and by the lower rents and living costs. The following photographs were taken by Shawn Baldwin.
Zero-Star "Hotel" that Asylum-Seekers Call Home in Dijon
France is one of the main destinations for asylum-seekers in Europe, with some 55,000 new asylum applications in 2012. As a result of the growing number of applicants, many French cities are facing an acute shortage of accommodation for asylum-seekers.
The government is trying to address the problem and, in February 2013, announced the creation of 4,000 additional places in state-run reception centres for asylum-seekers. But many asylum-seekers are still forced to sleep rough or to occupy empty buildings. One such building, dubbed the "Refugee Hotel" by its transient population, lies on the outskirts of the eastern city of Dijon. It illustrates the critical accommodation situation.
The former meat-packing plant is home to about 100 asylum-seekers, mostly from Chad, Mali and Somalia, but also from Georgia, Kosovo and other Eastern European countries. Most are single men, but there are also two families.
In this dank, rat-infested empty building, the pipes leak and the electricity supply is sporadic. There is only one lavatory, two taps with running water, no bathing facilities and no kitchen. The asylum-seekers sleep in the former cold-storage rooms. The authorities have tried to close the squat several times. These images, taken by British photographer Jason Tanner, show the desperate state of the building and depict the people who call it home.
Thousands of refugees moved before the rains hit South Sudan
Since the beginning of May, an operation has been under way in South Sudan to move more than 18,000 Sudanese refugees to a newly built camp. Six days a week, around 500 people are transported from the Jamam camp in Upper Nile state to a recently constructed site called Kaya. South Sudan's long and intense rainy season will soon begin in earnest and the operation will move the refugees from a location prone to severe flooding to one designed to remain accessible and functional during the downpours. The rains leave large areas of the country cut off by flood waters for months. Residents of Jamam are assisted to move their household belongings and are allotted a plot of land on arrival in Kaya, where UNHCR partners have established schools and medical facilities. Newly arrived refugees from Sudan are also brought to Kaya, where they are provided with relief items and shelter. UNHCR's Tim Irwin was there with his camera.