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2015 UNHCR subregional operations profile - Northern, Western, Central and Southern Europe

| Overview |

UNHCR 2015 Northern, Western, Central and Southern Europe subregional operations map

The number of asylum applications received in 2014 in European Union (EU) Member States has risen by 25 per cent compared to the same period in 2013. A quarter of the applicants are of Afghan, Eritrean or Syrian origin, and a similar proportion are under 18 years of age. There have also been many more asylum applications from stateless people, with an estimated total of 436,000 people across the European Union. Germany continues to be the recipient of the largest number of asylum applications, followed by France, Sweden, Italy and the United Kingdom.

In the first seven months of 2014, more than 87,000 people arrived in Italy by sea, mainly from Eritrea and the Syrian Arab Republic (Syria). In an effort to reduce the risks linked to such journeys, in October 2013 the Italian Government launched the Mare Nostrum operation, which has rescued more than 100,000 people. Greece and Spain also recorded an increase in arrivals.

The economic situation in the region has had an impact on the capacity and readiness of many countries to strengthen their protection systems. Austerity measures have also hit civil-society organizations that provide services to asylum-seekers and refugees. Xenophobia and intolerance have led to incidents of discrimination and violence. States have responded by concentrating on curbing irregular movements, including through tighter border controls and detention, or penalization for illegal entry.

UNHCR will build on international and regional law and policy to support States' efforts to find durable solutions for unaccompanied and separated children, who have been arriving in the subregion in large numbers.

The Office continues to be particularly concerned about reports that some EU countries are placing barriers to entry or forcibly returning asylum-seekers and refugees.

In April 2014, the European Union adopted the Asylum, Migration and Integration Fund, representing a commitment of over EUR 3 billion for the next seven years (2014-2020). A major portion of this fund will be allocated to Member States' national programmes to complement their own domestic budgets, which should help improve asylum systems, reception modalities, and integration policies.

In this context, UNHCR's work in the subregion will also focus on:

  • Assisting and supporting governments to build and maintain fair and efficient asylum and protection systems;

  • Ensuring border management is more protection-sensitive. The Office will promote alternatives to detention. It will also advocate for reception conditions that meet minimum international standards;

  • Promoting responsibility-sharing among EU Member States, complementing the efforts of the European Commission and the European Asylum Support Office (EASO);

  • Promoting community participation and preventing and responding to incidents of sexual and gender-based violence(SGBV);

  • Advocating for more resettlement places and enhancing integration capacity in resettlement countries;

  • Urging States to accede to the 1954 and 1961 UN Statelessness Conventions, improving mechanisms to identify and protect stateless people and preventing and resolving situations of statelessness; and

  • Supporting EU policy-making processes related to people of concern and mobilizing regional political and financial support for UNHCR's work worldwide.

| Response and implementation |

Asylum and protection

In 2015, one of UNHCR's priorities will be to ensure the safeguarding of asylum space. To prevent deaths at sea, the organization will work with European States towards more concerted action. These efforts will be guided by its Central Mediterranean Sea Initiative (CMSI), which includes measures not only within the European Union, but also in transit or first asylum countries, and in countries of origin. The CMSI seeks to strengthen cooperation with relevant stakeholders. Admission practices will be monitored and the capacity of immigration and coast guard officials built, to help prevent refoulement and ensure that those in need of international protection can access territory.

UNHCR offices in Bulgaria, Hungary, Poland, Romania, Slovakia and the United Kingdom will follow up on measures in respect of the Response to Vulnerability project. Standard operating procedures will be instituted in reception centres to respond to incidents of SGBV.

The Office will pursue efforts to build and maintain an effective asylum and protection system. Since 2013, UNHCR and the Government of Albania have worked in close collaboration to ensure the safe arrival of more than 240 former residents of the Hurriya temporary transit location (ex-Ashraf) in Iraq who are in need of international protection, and will continue working on durable solutions for this refugee group.

UNHCR will also work to assure reception conditions and procedures that are adequate for responding to asylum-seekers' specific needs and maintaining their dignity. UNHCR and UNICEF are developing guidance on how States can ensure respect for the best interests of unaccompanied children in Europe.

In line with the organization's global Beyond Detention strategy, rolled out in Hungary, Lithuania, Malta and the United Kingdom, the Office will promote alternatives to detention, as well as the release of children held and improvements in detention conditions.

Monitoring and reporting on national practices will help identify gaps and good practice. The follow-up study to Beyond Proof, which assesses credibility in claims lodged by unaccompanied children, will be completed in 2014 and will require implementation in 2015.

Having analysed the reasons for their movements, UNHCR has started developing a more comprehensive protection strategy for Afghans.

Comments on legislation in the context of the transposition of the asylum acquis, comparative analyses and judicial engagement, will allow UNHCR to contribute to the setting of national and regional legal standards. It will implement quality audit mechanisms and participate in some national asylum procedures, such as those in France, Italy and Spain.

UNHCR will continue to complement EASO's efforts to improve practical cooperation among EU Member States in building asylum systems and improving the quality of country-of-origin information.

The Office will pursue its efforts to identify cases for judicial engagement with national and European courts. It will continue to support the conference of refugee law judges in Germany. Judicial engagement and court interventions will permit UNHCR to ensure the correct application of relevant laws in refugee cases.

UNHCR works closely with civil-society organizations and others involved in refugee protection. Innovative approaches include high-visibility campaigns in public spaces and transport. In 2015, particular attention will be paid to improving social media communication.

Durable solutions

Despite 22 out of 36 countries contributing to UNHCR's resettlement efforts in some capacity, the number of resettlement places for the region remain limited. Special attention will be devoted to resettlement and humanitarian admission of Syrian refugees, and the Office will continue managing the Emergency Transit Centres in Timisoara (Romania) and Humenné (Slovakia).

In order to enhance reception and integration capacities and improve refugees' local integration prospects, the Office will work to raise awareness of the integration challenges facing 1.6 million refugees in the region and to promote good practice in labour market integration, housing and the building of social and professional networks.


UNHCR has launched a 10-year campaign to end statelessness, and will advocate for more EU Member States to accede to the 1954 and 1961 UN Statelessness Conventions. The organization will encourage and support States to adopt national action plans to address statelessness, conduct public awareness activities and advocate for a formal identification and protection mechanism for stateless people be established in countries that lack one.

The Office will continue to advocate for law reform preventing statelessness at birth or later in life, and the facilitation of naturalization. Cooperation with the European Network on Statelessness will continue.

| Financial information |

The budget for the subregion has increased significantly in the past years, from USD 51.1 million in 2011 to USD 68.1 million in 2015, primarily owing to the impact of the Syria Situation and asylum-seekers arriving by boat to the shores of Southern Europe.

The budget for the subregion will however be reduced during the course of 2015 as the operation in Albania will move to South-Eastern Europe within the context of UNHCR's regionalization process in the western Balkans.

Approximately 94 per cent of the 2015 budget is allocated to refugee programmes, with the remaining 6 per cent for statelessness activities.

UNHCR 2015 budgets for Northern, Western, Central and Southern Europe (USD)
Operation 2014
Revised budget
(as of 30 June 2014)
Total 68,075,927 62,431,037 4,479,646 1,191,163 68,101,847
1. Includes activities in Austria, France, Germany, Ireland, the Netherlands, the Liaison Office in Switzerland and the United Kingdom.
2. Includes activities in Bulgaria, the Czech Republic, Poland, Romania, Slovakia, Slovenia and as from 2015, also Croatia.
3. Includes activities in Albania, Cyprus, Greece, Malta and Spain.
4. Includes activities in Denmark, Estonia, Finland, Iceland, Latvia, Lithuania and Norway.
Belgium Regional Office[1] 14,521,916 14,603,538 1,431,980 0 16,035,518
Hungary Regional Office[2] 17,069,083 11,993,641 1,702,007 1,191,163 14,886,811
Italy Regional Office[3] 24,976,188 22,677,175 223,092 0 22,900,267
Sweden Regional Office[4] 5,538,754 4,518,289 965,440 0 5,483,728
Regional Activities 5,969,986 8,638,394 157,127 0 8,795,521

Source: UNHCR Global Appeal 2015 Update

UNHCR contact information

The UNHCR Liaison Office in Switzerland
Style of Address The UNHCR Liaison Office in Switzerland
Street Address 94 Rue Montbrillant, 1202 Geneva, Switzerland
Mailing Address Case Postale 2500, 1211 Genève 2 Dépôt, Switzerland
Telephone 41 22 739 8111
Facsimile 41 22 739 7377
Email swige@unhcr.org
Time Zone GMT + 1
Working Hours
Monday:8:30 - 17:30
Tuesday:8:30 - 17:30
Wednesday:8:30 - 17:30
Thursday:8:30 - 17:30
Friday:8:30 - 17:30
Public Holidays 01 January 2016, New Year's Day
25 March 2016, good friday
28 March 2016, easter monday
05 May 2016, Ascension day
16 May 2016, whit monday
06 July 2016, Eid Al Fitr
01 August 2016, swiss national day
08 September 2016, Jeune Genevois
12 September 2016, Eid al Adha
26 December 2016, Christmas Day



UNHCR contact information

Statistical Snapshot*
* As at June 2015
  1. Country or territory of asylum or residence.
  2. Persons recognized as refugees under the 1951 UN Convention/1967 Protocol, the 1969 OAU Convention, in accordance with the UNHCR Statute, persons granted a complementary form of protection and those granted temporary protection. It also includes persons in a refugee-like situation for whom refugee status has, for practical or other reasons, not been ascertained. In the absence of Government figures, UNHCR has estimated the refugee population in many industrialized countries based on 10 years of individual asylum-seeker recognition.
  3. Persons whose applications for asylum or refugee status are pending as at 30 June 2015 at any stage in the asylum procedure.
  4. Refugees who have returned to their place of origin during the first half of 2015. Source: country of origin and asylum.
  5. Persons who are displaced within their country and to whom UNHCR extends protection and assistance. It also includes people in IDP-like situations. This category is descriptive in nature and includes groups of persons who are inside their country of nationality or habitual residence and who face protection risks similar to those of IDPs but who, for practical or other reasons, could not be reported as such.
  6. IDPs protected/assisted by UNHCR who have returned to their place of origin during the first half of 2015.
  7. Refers to persons who are not considered as nationals by any State under the operation of its law. This category refers to persons who fall under the agency's statelessness mandate because they are stateless according to this international definition, but data from some countries may also include persons with undetermined nationality.
  8. Refers to individuals who do not necessarily fall directly into any of the other groups but to whom UNHCR may extend its protection and/or assistance services. These activities might be based on humanitarian or other special grounds.
The data are generally provided by Governments, based on their own definitions and methods of data collection.
A dash (-) indicates that the value is zero, not available or not applicable.

Source: UNHCR/Governments.
Compiled by: UNHCR, FICSS.
Residing in Switzerland [1]
Refugees [2] 69,390
Asylum Seekers [3] 17,085
Returned Refugees [4] 0
Internally Displaced Persons (IDPs) [5] 0
Returned IDPs [6] 0
Stateless Persons [7] 76
Various [8] 0
Total Population of Concern 86,551
Originating from Switzerland [1]
Refugees [2] 17
Asylum Seekers [3] 3
Returned Refugees [4] 0
Internally Displaced Persons (IDPs) [5] 0
Returned IDPs [6] 0
Various [8] 0
Total Population of Concern 20
Government Contributions to UNHCR
2013 Contributions Breakdown
Total contribution in USD: 45,866,329 [rank: 13]
Total contribution in currency: 40,378,815 (CHF); 2,025,003 (USD)
Unrestricted contribution (USD): 15,231,164 [rank: 8]
Donor ranking per GDP: 8
Donor ranking per capita: 8
2013 Contributions chart
Contributions since 2000
More info47,684,728
As at 15 January 2015
More info45,866,329
Total contribution in USD: 45,866,329 [rank: 13]
Total contribution in currency: 40,378,815 (CHF); 2,025,003 (USD)
Unrestricted contribution (USD): 15,231,164 [rank: 8]
Donor ranking per GDP: 8
Donor ranking per capita: 8
More info37,547,459
Total contribution in USD: 37,547,459 [rank: 12]
Total contribution in currency: 32,019,962 (CHF); 2,973,839 (USD)
Unrestricted contribution (USD): 15,195,006 [rank: 8]
Donor ranking per GDP: 7
Donor ranking per capita: 8
More info31,624,870
Total contribution in USD: 31,624,870 [rank: 12]
Total contribution in currency: 27,174,040 CHF; 2,337,458 USD
Unrestricted contribution (USD): 13,738,324 [rank: 10]
Donor ranking per GDP: 8
Donor ranking per capita: 9
More info25,521,158
Total contribution in USD: 25,521,158 (rank: 14)
Total contribution in currency: 24,086,620 CHF; 2,232,170 USD
Unrestricted contribution (USD): 11,371,760 (rank: 10)
Donor ranking per GDP: 9
Donor ranking per capita: 9
More info25,607,741
Total contribution in USD: 25,607,741 (rank: 15)
Total contribution in currency: 24,702,132 CHF; 2,767,242 USD
Unrestricted contribution (USD): 11,972,563 (rank: 8)
Donor ranking per GDP: 9
Donor ranking per capita: 10
More info25,481,287
Total contribution in USD: 25,481,287 (rank: 16)
Total contribution in currency: 24,952,517 (CHF); 2,362,777 (USD)
Unrestricted contribution (USD): 10,380,852 (rank: 10)
Donor ranking per GDP: 11
Donor ranking per capita: 10
More info21,288,138
Total contribution in USD: 21,288,138 (rank: 14)
Total contribution in currency: 23,470,331 (CHF); 1,918,894 (USD)
Unrestricted contribution (USD): 9,016,393 (rank: 10)
Donor ranking per GDP: 10
Donor ranking per capita: 10
More info25,590,089
Total contribution in USD: 25,590,089 (rank: 12)
Total contribution in currency: 28,858,000 (CHF); 2,141,795 (USD)
Unrestricted contribution (USD): 9,016,393 (rank: 9)
Donor ranking per GDP: 9
Donor ranking per capita: 9
More info23,702,584
USD 23,702,584 of which USD 9,243,697 (39%) unrestricted, USD 804,264 (3%) earmarked at the regional level, USD 2,346,692 (10%) earmarked at the subregional level, USD 8,773,382 (37%) earmarked at the country level, USD 2,277,820 (10%) earmarked at the sectoral / thematic level and USD 256,729 (1%) for JPOs.
More info22,240,828
USD 22,240,828 of which USD 10,838,596 (49%) unrestricted, USD 10,830,357 earmarked at the country level (49%) and USD 571,872 (2%) earmarked at the sectoral / thematic level.
More info21,955,002
USD 21,955,002 of which USD 9,352,518 (43%) was unrestricted, USD 3,234,703 (15%) earmarked at the subregional level, USD 8,635,583 (39%) earmarked at the country level and USD 732,198 (3%) earmarked at the sectoral level.
More info16,326,268
USD 16,326,268 of which USD 8,073,665 unrestricted (49%), USD 1,384,511 earmarked at the sub-regional level (9%), USD 5,687,153 earmarked at the country level (35%), USD 1,180,939 earmarked at the sectoral level (7%).
More info13,614,653
USD 13,614,653 of which 7,738,095 (56%) unrestricted, 5,876,558 (44%) earmarked.
More info14,563,132
USD 14,563,132 of which 8,125,000 (57%) unrestricted and 6,438,132 (43%) earmarked.
Private Sector Contributions to UNHCR
Private sector fund raising 2013

Total contribution in USD: 2,330,817
Total contribution in currency: 103,972 (CHF); 11,999 (EUR); 5,604 (GBP); 2,192,368 (USD); 75,000 (XAF)
Major donorsUSD
Online donations1,624,625
International Olympic Committee535,850

2013 Contributions chart
Contributions since 2006
More info 2,295,337
As at 15 January 2015
More info 2,330,817

Total contribution in USD: 2,330,817
Total contribution in currency: 103,972 (CHF); 11,999 (EUR); 5,604 (GBP); 2,192,368 (USD); 75,000 (XAF)
Major donorsUSD
Online donations1,624,625
International Olympic Committee535,850
More info 4,545,837

Total contribution in USD: 4,545,837
Total contribution in currency: 3,010,949 (CHF); 58,658 (EUR); 1,309,007 (USD)
Major donorsUSD
Care and Aid Foundation2,017,751
Novartis Foundation485,858
International Olympic Committee315,751
More info 2,417,326

Total contribution in USD: 2,417,326
Total contribution in currency: 50,000 (EUR); 189,826 (CHF); 2,192,957 (USD)
More info 6,290,510

Total contribution in USD: 6,290,510
Total contribution in currency: 539,458 CHF; 1,245 EUR; 26,500 HUF; 5,771,367 USD
More info 0
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More info 0
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More info 0
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2013 UNHCR Nansen Refugee Award

UN High Commissioner for Refugees António Guterres presented Sister Angélique Namaika of the Democratic Republic of the Congo (DRC) with the prestigious Nansen Refugee Award at a gala ceremony in Geneva on Monday night.

Sister Angélique, through her Centre for Reintegration and Development, has helped transform the lives of more than 2,000 women and girls who had been forced from their homes and abused by fighters of the Lord's Resistance Army (LRA) or other armed groups. Many of those she helps suffered abduction, forced labour, beatings, murder, rape or other human rights abuses.

The Roman Catholic nun helps survivors to heal by offering them the chance to learn a trade, start a small business or go to school. Testimonies from these women show the remarkable effect she has had on helping turn around their lives, with many affectionately calling her "mother."

The Award ceremony featured a keynote speech from best-selling author Paulo Coelho and musical performances by singer-songwriter Dido, Malaysian singer-songwriter Yuna and Grammy-nominated Malian musicians, Amadou and Mariam.

2013 UNHCR Nansen Refugee Award

Nansen Refugee Award Presentation Ceremony

More than 400 people attended the annual presentation in Geneva in October 1, 2012 of UNHCR's Nansen Refugee Award. This year's inspirational winner from Somalia, Hawa Aden Mohamed, was unable to attend for health reasons, but she sent a video message. In the former refugee's absence, UN High Commissioner for Refugees António Guterres presented the award and Nansen medal to her sister, Shukri Aden Mohamed.

The 63-year-old humanitarian, educator and women's rights advocate, widely known as "Mama" Hawa, was honoured for her extraordinary service - under extremely difficult conditions - on behalf of refugees and the internally displaced, mainly women and girls but also including boys.

Above all she has been recognized for her work - as founder and director of the Galkayo Education Centre for Peace and Development in Somalia's Puntland region - in helping to empower thousands of displaced Somali women and girls, many of whom are victims of rape. The centre provides secondary education as well as life skills training.

The packed event also included an address by Liberian peace activist Leymah Gbowee, co-winner of last year's Nobel Peace Prize, and a video tribute to Mama Hawa as well as performances from UNHCR Honorary Lifetime Goodwill Ambassador and classical singer, Barbara Hendricks, and up and coming Swiss musician Bastian Baker.

Nansen Refugee Award Presentation Ceremony

2014 UNHCR Nansen Refugee Award

UN High Commissioner for Refugees António Guterres presented the Colombian women's rights group, Butterflies with New Wings Building a Future, with the prestigious Nansen Refugee Award in Geneva, Switzerland, on Monday night.

The volunteer members of Butterflies risk their lives each day to help survivors of forced displacement and sexual abuse in the Pacific Coast city of Buenaventura. This city has some of the highest rates of violence and displacement due to escalating rivalries between illegal armed groups.

Drawing on only the most modest of resources, volunteers cautiously move through the most dangerous neighbourhoods to help women access medical care and report crimes. This work, deep inside the communities, helps them reach the most vulnerable women, but also brings with it danger and threats from the illegal armed groups.

The Award ceremony, in its 60th year, was held in Geneva's Bâtiment des Forces Motrices, and featured musical performances by UNHCR supporters, Swedish-Lebanese singer-songwriter Maher Zain and Malian singer-songwriter Rokia Traoré. The Mexican acoustic guitar duo Rodrigo y Gabriela also performed at the ceremony.

2014 UNHCR Nansen Refugee Award

Switzerland: Kuwait Donates US$ 100 Million to the Syria CrisisPlay video

Switzerland: Kuwait Donates US$ 100 Million to the Syria Crisis

The United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees welcomes the State of Kuwait's contribution of US$ 100 million to support UNHCR operations aiding Syrians.

UNHCR Geneva: Executive Committee 2012Play video

UNHCR Geneva: Executive Committee 2012

Refugee agency chief António Guterres opens annual ExCom meeting with warning that UNHCR being stretched by multiplication of new refugee crises.