UNHCR FAQ Frequently asked questions - A young Rohingya girl sitting with a UNHCR staff member on a bench in front of a nutrition centre in a Cox'a Bazar refugee settlement.
© UNHCR

Frequently Asked Questions

Are you a refugee, asylum-seeker or stateless person looking for help?
Visit our HELP site for information on asylum procedures, legal assistance, education and other services
in the country of your interest. Click here.

 

Facts, figures and terminology

How to help refugees

About UNHCR's work

Donating to UNHCR


Facts, figures and terminology

What is a refugee?

Under international law, a refugee is someone who is forced to flee their home country to escape persecution or a serious threat to their life, physical integrity or freedom. This may be linked to their race, religion, nationality, political beliefs or membership of a social group. But also to situations of conflict, violence or public disorder. Refugees are protected by international law and cannot be sent back home if their life or freedom would be at risk.

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How many refugees are there worldwide?

There are 26 million refugees across the world and over half of them are children. The total number of displaced people worldwide is 79.5 million. This includes not only refugees but also asylum-seekers and people displaced inside their own countries.

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Where do refugees go?

85 per cent of the world's refugees and Venezuelans displaced abroad are hosted by low- or middle-income countries. Turkey has taken in 3.6 million refugees, more than any other country, followed by Colombia, Pakistan, Uganda and Germany, each with over 1 million people.

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What is the difference between refugees and migrants?

Refugees are defined and protected in international law. Refugees are people outside their country of origin because of feared persecution, conflict, violence, or other circumstances that have seriously disturbed public order, and who, as a result, require 'international protection'. The term 'migrant', on the other hand, is not defined under international law and is sometimes used differently by different stakeholders. Traditionally, the word 'migrant' has been used to designate people who move by choice rather than to escape conflict or persecution, usually across an international border. This can include finding work or pursuing an education, but also for reuniting with family or other reasons. People may also move to alleviate significant hardships that arise from natural disasters, famine, or extreme poverty. Those who leave their countries for these reasons would not usually be considered refugees under international law.

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What is an asylum-seeker?

An asylum-seeker is a person who is applying (or preparing to apply) for asylum in another country to seek international protection. A final determination of the protection need, however, has not yet been made for such persons. While not every asylum-seeker will ultimately be recognized as a refugee, an asylum-seeker may not be sent back to their country of origin pending a final determination.

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What is refugee resettlement?

Refugees cannot go home as long as conflict or persecution puts their lives at risk. But sometimes they are still unsafe in the country to which they fled. Resettlement is the selection and transfer of refugees to a third country, which agrees to admit them as refugees with permanent residence status, ensuring protection against refoulement and providing resettled refugees and their dependants with access to rights similar to those of nationals. Resettlement also carries the opportunity to eventually become a naturalized citizen. 

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How to help refugees

How can I help refugees?

Here are five practical ways you can help refugees:

  1. Volunteer with a refugee organization near you. You could offer your skills to teach refugees a language, craft, or sport. 
  2. Help refugees get work. Hire a refugee, support a refugee-owned business or offer training or volunteer opportunities to refugees.
  3. Become a supporter and advocate! Join a campaign that raises awareness about refugee issues and shows solidarity. You can start with our 2 Billion Kilometres to Safety Campaign. 
  4. Help refugees integrate. Show them your hometown, invite them to activities like watching football together or having dinner.
  5. Donate. It might not feel very hands-on to you, but your donation will make a huge difference in the life of a refugee.

Make an online donation now

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How can I volunteer for UNHCR?

To find volunteer opportunities with UNHCR, contact your nearest local office. Find a list of local offices here. Within the wider United Nations system, consider becoming a UN Volunteer. Learn more about volunteering on the UN Volunteers page. UN Volunteers must be at least 25 years old and have at least 2 years of work experience. 

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How can I get help if I am a refugee, asylum-seeker or stateless person?

If you are a refugee, asylum-seeker or stateless person and looking for information on where to find help, please visit UNHCR's HELP site (https://help.unhcr.org) 

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About UNHCR's work

What does UNHCR do?

UNHCR, the UN Refugee Agency, is a global organization working to save lives, protect rights and build a better future for refugees, internally displaced communities and stateless people. We work to ensure that everybody has the right to seek asylum and find refuge from violence or persecution.

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Where does UNHCR work?

UNHCR staff in 134 countries are working to ensure the protection of people forced to flee, strengthen access to education and livelihoods, and provide life-saving support like shelter, water, food and health care. UNHCR partners with governments, non-profit organizations and private-sector companies to support forcibly displaced people and the communities hosting them.

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Where does UNHCR work?

UNHCR staff in 134 countries are working to ensure the protection of people forced to flee, strengthen access to education and livelihoods, and provide life-saving support like shelter, water, food and health care. UNHCR partners with governments, non-profit organizations and private-sector companies to support forcibly displaced people and the communities hosting them.

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How is UNHCR funded?

UNHCR relies almost entirely on voluntary contributions. Individual governments and the European Union provide 86 per cent of our budget. Another 10 per cent comes from individuals and the private sector. Even so, UNHCR typically receives only half the money it needs each year.

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What does "UNHCR" stand for?

UNHCR stands for United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees, also known as the UN Refugee Agency. It was created in 1950 to help millions of Europeans who had fled or lost their homes during the Second World War. Today, UNHCR protects and assists millions of displaced and stateless people around the world.

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How does UNHCR protect refugees?

We protect and assist refugees in many different ways. In emergencies, we provide physical protection from violence, individual documentation, counseling and the most basic needs, like shelter, water, food, health care. We also try to safeguard their fundamental human rights in their countries of asylum, including by supporting their integration in national programmes and services. Longer-term, we work to ensure that refugees won't be sent back against their will to a country where they could face persecution. We also support them to resettle in third countries or repatriate voluntarily to their homeland when it is safe.

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What is World Refugee Day?

June 20th is World Refugee Day, an international day designated by the United Nations to showcase the rights, needs, hopes and contributions of refugees throughout the world.

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How do I find a job with UNHCR?

Visit UNHCR's Careers Portal to find information about current job opportunities, including staff positions, consultancies and temporary appointments. You can also register for our Talent Pool. 

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How do I find an internship with UNHCR?

Internships at UNHCR are offered at various locations depending on the needs and capacity of offices to receive and supervise interns and provide them with meaningful assignments. An internship can begin at any time during the year and lasts typically two to six months. Visit our Internship page to find out more.

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What policies does UNHCR have in place to protect people from sexual harassment, exploitation and abuse?

Tackling sexual exploitation and abuse against the people we serve, together with sexual harassment in the workplace, is a top priority for UNHCR. Our position is clear and has been reiterated on a number of occasions by our High Commissioner: sexual misconduct is unjustifiable and must be eradicated from UNHCR operations. UNHCR has a well-established, effective safeguarding team, with a global remit, which includes the Inspector General's Office, the Ethics Office, the Legal Affairs Service and the Staff Welfare Services, among others. Learn more about the actions we are taking to tackle sexual misconduct.

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Donating to UNHCR

How can I make a donation?

You can donate online to help refugees, asylum-seekers and stateless people in need. Visit our website at the following address: donate.unhcr.org. For other payment methods, please get in touch with our Donor Care team at [email protected] 

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How can I donate money to a specific country, project or emergency situation?

We always ask our supporters to first consider making an unrestricted donation to UNHCR, as your gift can then go where it's most needed. But you can also make donations to specific UNHCR appeals: Rohingya emergency; Syria emergency; South Sudan emergency; Yemen emergency. 

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Can I make small donations of clothes, blankets, foods or toys?

As much as we appreciate the generosity of supporters who want to donate non-monetary items, unfortunately, UNHCR does not accept small-scale in-kind donations. For our organization, the logistics of collecting such items from many different locations and sending them to refugee camps would not be efficient. We continue to encourage cash donations as this is one of the most effective ways to provide protection and shelter to refugees. 

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I have stocks or products that I am interested in giving to UNHCR as an in-kind donation. What information should I provide about what I can offer?

Please send an email to our Donor Care team ([email protected]) with the following information:

  1. Name and address of your company
  2. Item description
  3. Technical specification
  4. Quantities (approximate figure, with sizes if applicable and potential timing for multiple gifts)
  5. Constraints on destination
  6. Confirmation willingness and ability to arrange transport
  7. How soon can an item be available to be shipped to UNHCR?
  8. Where will the item be shipped from? 

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How does UNHCR spend my donation?

Your money helps UNHCR provide protection, shelter and other forms of assistance, and advocacy on behalf of displaced and stateless people every year. We ensure that as many funds as possible are redirected to refugees, stateless persons and asylum-seekers. 84 per cent of all funds raised go directly to field operations, 10 per cent get allocated for global programmes and 6 per cent for headquarters administration. Also, UNHCR staff work as closely as possible with and for displaced and stateless people, with 90 per cent of our workforce based in field locations. For further details on UNHCR's budget, read our Global Report.

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How can I update my profile or make changes to my donation?

Please get in touch with our Donor Care team at [email protected] and we will be happy to update your preferences and make changes to your monthly donations. 

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How can I receive a statement for tax purposes?

If you donate through one of our country offices where donations are tax-deductible, please contact one of our national affiliates. If you need further assistance, get in touch with our Donor Care team at [email protected]

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What should I do if I am experiencing problems trying to make an online donation?

If you face a technical issue with your donation, please send an email to our Donor Care team ([email protected].org). Most technical problems involving online donations can be identified and resolved if you let us know:
1. The URL of the page you had difficulties with
2. The type of card you tried to use
3. The amount, currency and type of your donation (one-off or monthly)
4. The date when you tried to make a donation.

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How do I unsubscribe from a mailing list?

If you would like to stop receiving email updates from UNHCR, click on the unsubscribe link at the footer of all our emails. As we are constantly looking for ways to improve our communication, you can also leave a comment to tell us why you do not want to receive emails any longer. It helps us make our communication more relevant.

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How can I stop receiving paper communications by mail? (for US-based donors only)

If you live in the USA and would like to stop receiving physical materials in the mail, please contact the Donor Care team at USA for UNHCR

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