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Past laureates

More than 60 Nansen Refugee Award laureates

The first person to win the Nansen Refugee Award, in 1954, was Eleanor Roosevelt, first chair of the UN Human Rights Commission and former First Lady of the United States.

Since then, more than 60 individuals, groups or organizations have received the Award for their extraordinary service to refugees, displaced and stateless people. Since 2017, we have also recognized several Regional Winners each year for their humanitarian efforts.

The 2023 global laureate is Abdullahi Mire, a journalist and former refugee from Somalia who has championed the right to education while putting 100,000 books in the hands of displaced children and youth in Kenya. 

Global laureates

Abdullahi Mire sits smiling in a library
Abdullahi Mire
Abdullahi Mire is a journalist and former refugee from Somalia who has championed the right to education while putting 100,000 books in the hands of displaced children and youth in Kenya.
Angela Merkel receiving her award, standing next to Filippo Grandi
Angela Merkel
Under Dr. Angela Merkel's leadership, Germany welcomed more than 1.2 million refugees and asylum seekers in 2015 and 2016, at the height of the conflict in Syria and amid deadly violence in other places.
Jeel Albena Association for Humanitarian Development
The Jeel Albena aid organization stayed on the ground during the worst of Yemen's six-year conflict to provide shelter and hope to thousands of internally displaced people.
Colombia. Youth worker becomes Nansen Refugee Award Laureate 2020.
Mayerlín Vergara Pérez
Mayerlín Vergara Pérez, Maye, has dedicated her life to defending children. As the Caribbean Regional Coordinator for the Renacer Foundation she has devoted more than two decades to helping the Colombian non-profit reach its goal of eradicating sexual exploitation and abuse of children and adolescents.
Kyrgyzstan. Azizbek Ashurov wins 2019 UNHCR Nansen Refugee Award for helping country end statelessness
Azizbek Ashurov
Azizbek Ashurov, through his organization Ferghana Valley Lawyers Without Borders (FVLWB), has helped well over 10,000 people to gain Kyrgyz nationality after they became stateless following the dissolution of the Soviet Union. Among them, some 2,000 children will now have the right to an education and a future with the freedom to travel, marry and work.
Dr. Evan Atar Adaha, Surgeon and Medical; Director of Maban County Hospital.
Dr. Evan Atar
South Sudanese surgeon Dr. Evan Atar Adaha has been honoured for his outstanding 20-year commitment in providing medical services to people forced to flee conflict and persecution in Sudan and South Sudan, as well as to the communities that welcome them.
Zannah Mustapha
Nigerian lawyer and property developer Zannah Mustapha was named the winner of the UNHCR Nansen Refugee Award for providing orphans of Nigeria’s Boko Haram insurgency with an education. Mustapha’s Future Prowess School provides free education, free meals, uniforms and health care to children affected by the violence.

Greek volunteers receive UNHCR Nansen Refugee Award
Konstantinos Mitragas and Efi Latsoudi
Greek volunteers Efi Latsoudi and Konstantinos Mitragas, member of the Hellenic Rescue Team (HRT), helped thousands of refugees arriving on Greek shores during the 2015 refugee and migrant crisis – saving lives during treacherous sea crossings and providing a safe haven for the most vulnerable after they reached land.
Aqeela Asifi
Aqeela Asifi has been recognised for her brave and tireless dedication to education for Afghan refugee girls in the Kot Chandana refugee village in Mianwali, Pakistan - while herself overcoming the struggles of life in exile. Despite minimal resources and significant cultural challenges, Asifi has guided a thousand refugee girls through their primary education.
Butterflies, Nansen winners
Butterflies with New Wings Building a Future
Established in 2010 by a group of forcibly displaced and local women, this network provides counsel and support for victims of abuse and reaches out into communities to educate women and put pressure on local authorities to uphold women's rights.
Democratic Republic of Congo. Sister Angelique still transforming lives
Sister Angélique Namaika
Sister Angélique Namaika has helped hundreds of women and girls - as well as a few boys - who were forcibly displaced and abused by armed groups in the DRC. Over the past decade, she has helped them to overcome their trauma, counter the stigma attached to rape and rebuild their lives with newly learned trades.
Hawa Aden Mohamed
Somali humanitarian, educator and women's rights advocate Hawa Aden Mohamed 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.
Nasser Salim Ali Al-Hamairy
Al-Hamairy founded the Society for Humanitarian Solidarity (SHS) in 1995 with the aim of providing relief to the needy for the benefit of society as a whole. Under difficult conditions and despite heavy security constraints, SHS has consistently provided essential and life-saving support to refugees in Yemen's southern governorates.
Alixandra Fazzina
British photo-journalist Alixandra Fazzina. Ms. Fazzina was chosen for her tireless dedication to uncovering and portraying the overlooked human consequences of war. Over the last ten years, she has tirelessly documented the plight of the uprooted through distinctive and moving photo reportages.
Senator Edward Kennedy
Senator Kennedy's work in establishing US refugee admissions, resettlement and asylum programmes directly helped millions of persecuted individuals to find protection and start new lives in the United States.

Chris Cook, Nansen winner
Chris Clark
An expert in humanitarian mine action, he has notably run the UN's Mine Action Programme in the south of Lebanon. His team of Lebanese and international mine clearers and supervisors have since cleared villages and agricultural land of tens of thousands of mines.

Regional winners

Three people walk together through a small village
Americas – Elizabeth Moreno Barco
This human rights defender and peace builder has spent decades advocating for communities affected by armed internal conflict in Colombia – especially women and children, Afro-descendants, indigenous groups, and internally displaced people.
Four adults, two standing and two sitting, each examine a camera.
Asia-Pacific – Rohingya Storytellers
These four content creators – Abdullah Habib, Sahat Zia Hero, Salim Khan, and Shahida Win – use photography, video, and poetry to share vital information, document the experiences of stateless Rohingya refugees, and share their perspectives with the world.
A woman and a man pose on an orange sofa, surrounded by art
Europe – Lena Grochowska and Władysław Grochowski
This Polish couple have marshalled their hotel chain and private foundation to provide shelter and livelihoods training to refugees, including many living with disabilities, and leveraged their influence in the business community to rally support for people forced to flee.
A teacher at the front of a classroom, with many students
Middle East and North Africa – Asia Al-Mashreqi
This female leader is the founder and CEO of the Sustainable Development Foundation, which has provided humanitarian assistance to nearly 2 million individuals in Yemen, including refugees, returnees, internally displaced people, and host communities.
Mauritania. Refugee fire brigade founder honoured for environmental activism
Africa – Mbera Fire Brigade
Founded by refugees, this all-volunteer firefighting group in Mauritania has extinguished more than 100 bushfires and planted thousands of trees to preserve lives, livelihoods and the local environment.
Costa Rica. Regional Nansen winner devotes life to defending local and refugee women
Americas – Vicenta González
Doña Vicenta, a former midwife, has provided nearly 50 years of service to displaced and other vulnerable people in Costa Rica.
Myanmar. Meikswe Myanmar honoured for its inclusive community work
Asia – Meikswe Myanmar
This humanitarian organization assists communities in need with emergency items, health care, education, and livelihoods opportunities – while striving to build the capacity of local organizations.
Iraq. Iraqi gynaecologist honoured for aiding Yazidi survivors to recover
Middle East and North Africa – Dr. Nagham Hasan
This Iraqi gynaecologist provides medical and psychosocial care to girls and women who survived persecution, enslavement and gender-based violence at the hands of extremist groups in northern Iraq.
Burkina Faso. Community organizer wins joint UNHCR Nansen Refugee Award regional prize for Africa
Africa – Roukiatou Maiga and Diambendi Madiega
In Burkina Faso, community mobilizer Roukiatou Maiga and Chief Diambendi Madiega host and look after thousands of people who had been forced to flee their homes.
Honduras. Social worker wins UNHCR Nansen Refugee Award regional prize for the Americas
Americas – Santiago Ávila
Honduran social worker Jorge Santiago Ávila Corrales has made it his life’s work to empower youth and enable them to escape forced recruitment by criminal organizations.
Pakistan. Trailblazing refugee doctor wins UNHCR Nansen Refugee Award regional prize for Asia
Asia – Dr. Saleema Rehman
Dr. Saleema Rehman is the first-ever female Afghan refugee doctor of Turkmen origin. She lives and practises medicine in Pakistan.
Serbia. Human rights lawyer wins UNHCR Nansen Refugee Award regional prize for Europe
Europe – Nikola Kovačević
Human rights lawyer Nikola Kovačević has spent years advocating for the human rights of refugees and asylum-seekers in Serbia.
Uganda. Congolese activist wins Nansen Refugee Award regional prize for Africa
Africa – Sabuni Francoise Chikunda
Congolese refugee Sabuni Francoise Chikunda is a schoolteacher and community leader, counselling women and survivors of sexual and gender-based violence at the women’s centre she founded.
Rozma Ghafouri
Asia – Rozma Ghafouri
Afghan football player and coach Rozma Ghafouri founded the Youth Initiative Fund, identifying vulnerable children who are forced to work.
Ukraine. Former regional Nansen winner helps those with disabilities reach safety
Europe – Tetiana Barantsova
Tetiana has been helping people with disabilities escape conflict areas and restart their lives in safety since 2014 when she was forced to flee her home city of Luhansk in eastern Ukraine.
United States. Reading advocate is Nansen Refugee Award Regional Winner for MENA
Middle East and North Africa – Rana Dajani
Molecular biologist Rana Dajani founded the We Love Reading project, a grassroots movement that encourages local volunteers to read aloud to children and that is now active in 56 countries worldwide.
Democratic Republic of Congo. Peace villages and agricultural empowerment win Evariste Mfaume a regional Nansen Refugee Award
Africa – Evariste Mfaume
Congolese human rights activist Evariste Mfaume helps Burundian refugees and internally displaced Congolese persons acquire land to empower themselves through agricultural development.
El Salvador. Transgender activist wins UNHCR's Nansen Refugee Award for the Americas region
Americas – Bianka Rodriguez
Transgender activist Bianka Rodriguez is the director of a Salvadoran non-profit organisation that advocates for the rights of LGBT and HIV-positive people.
Afghanistan. Physio gets Nansen nomination for prosthetic limb programme
Asia – Alberto Cairo
Physiotherapist Alberto Cairo provides prothetic limbs and helps find jobs for injured Afghans.
Italy. Humanitarian Corridors wins Europe region Nansen Refugee Award
Europe – Humanitarian Corridors
Humanitarian Corridors is an Italian reception programme for refugees and migrants in particularly vulnerable conditions.
Jordan. ‘Mother of Syrians’ wins Nansen Refugee Award for Middle East
Middle East and North Africa – Abeer Khreisha
Jordanian activist Abeer Khreisha has worked tirelessly to welcome refugees and rally the local community to donate food, clothes and furniture, and provide accommodation, training and jobs to the most vulnerable.
United States. 2018 Nansen Award Regional Finalist Samira Harnish
Americas – Samira Harnish
Founder of Women of the World and Iraqi refugee Samira Harnish has helped more than 1,000 refugee women in Salt Lake City to learn English and find jobs, enabling them to become self-reliant and contribute to their new communities.
Thailand. 2018 Nansen Award runner-up for Asia, Tuenjai Deetes
Asia – Tuenjai Deetes
Tuenjai Deetes has spent 40 years helping stateless people in Thailand, living with communities and advocating for citizenship. She played a prominent role in changing the law in Thailand, opening the path for hundreds of thousands of stateless people to apply for nationality.
Germany. Mayor Hollstein has worked tirelessly to welcome newcomers into his town of Altena. It's an achievement which has seen him nominated for the UNHCR Nansen Refugee Award.
Europe – Andreas Hollstein
German mayor Andreas Hollstein and the town of Altena have welcomed 450 asylum-seekers since 2018, enabling them to have access to the labour market and providing them with long-term opportunities.
Middle East and North Africa – Reclaim Childhood
A non-profit programme for refugee and local girls in Jordan, Reclaim Childhood promotes leadership skills and interaction between different refugee and local communities through participation in sports.
Africa – CIYOTA
CIYOTA was formed by four teenage refugees in Kywangali refugee camp, Uganda. The group has transformed the education system, set up a primary school and offer scholarships to secondary education.
Americas – Friar Tomas
Friar Tomas has dedicated his entire life to protecting refugees and migrants in Mexico. His shelter "La 72" has become a beacon of hope and protection for thousands of desperate families escaping violence in Central America.
Asia – Bernard Wirth
Brother Bernard has dedicated the last twenty years of his life to supporting refugees and asylum seekers in detention in Bangkok; he offers guidance and fundraises to secure bail.
Europe – Hej Främling!
Swedish charity group Hej Främling! is integrating refugees into Swedish life using the things Swedes are most passionate about – outdoor activities.
Middle East and North Africa – Ihsan Ezedeen
Dr. Ezedeen is supporting thousands of displaced Syrians in Jaramana city, Damascus. Offering free health care, the Doctor works day and night to support people forced to flee their homes in war-torn Syria.

Each year, the UNHCR Nansen Refugee Award recognizes several individuals, groups or organizations that have shown exceptional dedication in protecting and assisting refugees, internally displaced or stateless people.