The protection of 79.5 million uprooted or stateless people is the core mandate of UNHCR.
Philippines / UNHCR distributes solar lanterns to families in the island sitio of Layag-layag who do not have access to electricity. © UNHCR/Kent Truog
Refugees fleeing war or persecution are often in a very dire situation. They have no protection from their own state – and in many cases it is their own government that is inflicting these predicaments on them. If other countries do not let them in, and do not protect and help them once they are in, then they may be condemned into an intolerable situation where their basic rights, security and, even their lives, are in serious jeopardy.
The protection of 79.5 million uprooted or stateless people is the core mandate of UNHCR. The agency does this in several ways: it ensures the basic human rights of uprooted or stateless people in their countries of asylum or habitual residence end that refugees will not be returned involuntarily to a country where they could face persecution. Longer term, the organization helps refugees find appropriate durable solutions to their plight, by repatriating voluntarily to their homeland, integrating in countries of asylum or resettling in third countries.
In many countries, UNHCR staff work alongside other partners in a variety of locations ranging from capital cities to remote camps and border areas. They attempt to promote or provide legal and physical protection, and minimize the threat of violence – including sexual assault – which many refugees are subject to, even in countries of asylum. They also seek to provide at least a minimum of shelter, food, water and medical care in the immediate aftermath of any refugee exodus, while taking into account the specific needs of women, children, the elderly and the disabled.
People who are forced to flee their homes invariably need help. UNHCR and its partners provide vital assistance, which takes many forms. Initially, the agency provides live-saving emergency assistance in the form of clean water and sanitation and health care as well as shelter materials and other relief items. Other vital assistance that it provides, or helps provide, includes refugee registration, assistance and advice on asylum applications, education and counselling. And UNHCR’s assistance extends to people who return home – we arrange transport by air, sea and land and give returnees a leg up in the form of assistance packages. The agency is also involved in local integration or reintegration programmes, including income-generation projects, restoration of infrastructure and other assistance.