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Who we protect

A UNHCR staff member speaks with a Ukrainian refugee mother and young boy on a bus.
UNHCR, the UN Refugee Agency

Who we protect

UNHCR protects people forced to flee conflict and persecution as well as those denied a nationality.

We are there for refugees, asylum-seekers, people displaced within their own country and stateless persons.

Protecting all people forced to flee and those denied a nationality

Seeking asylum is a human right. Anyone fleeing persecution, conflict, or human rights abuses has a right to seek protection in another country.

UNHCR works to ensure that this right is upheld.

We provide life-saving support and safeguard the rights of asylum-seekers, refugees and people displaced within their own country due to conflict or persecution. We also work to protect, support and advocate for people denied a nationality and refugees who have chosen to return to their own country.

With 117.3 million people forcibly displaced from their homes globally, there are more people under our protection today than at any point since the Second World War. 

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An asylum-seeker is an individual who has fled their country of origin and applied for asylum in another country, but their claim to refugee status has not yet been processed. Not every asylum-seeker will ultimately be recognized as a refugee, but every refugee was initially an asylum-seeker.

Each year an estimated one million people seek asylum. UNHCR works to protect them, providing life-saving aid and shelter and advocating for their right to seek safety. This includes working with governments to keep borders open and ensuring asylum-seekers are not pushed back into a territory where their lives would be in danger. 

Learn more about asylum-seekers


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Refugees are people fleeing conflict, persecution and human rights abuses who have crossed a border into another country. Often when refugees arrive at a safe location they are hungry, traumatized and exhausted after a long and dangerous journey, many carrying little more than the clothes on their backs. 

UNHCR has been assisting refugees for over 70 years. We respond with life-saving support, safeguard their fundamental human rights and develop long-term solutions to ensure they find a safe place to call home where they can build a better future.

Learn more about refugees


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Internally displaced people 

Internally displaced people (IDPs) have been forced to flee their homes, however, unlike refugees, they remain in their own country. They are among the most vulnerable displaced persons in the world, often trapped in dangerous conflict areas and unable to make their way to safety. They must rely on their own government to protect them, who may be unable or unwilling to do so. It may also be difficult for aid to reach them, leaving them cut off from supplies, such as food and shelter. 

Where able to do so, UNHCR works to protect and advocate for IDPs, setting up camps, providing shelter and delivering life-saving supplies.

Learn more about IDPs


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Stateless people

Millions of people around the world are denied a nationality, leaving them stateless and without critical documentation, such as a birth certificate. As a result, they often are not allowed to go to school, see a doctor, get a job, open a bank account, vote, travel, or even buy a house. Generations can become trapped in this cycle of lost opportunities and poverty.

UNHCR protects and advocates for the rights of stateless people, working with governments to change nationality laws and ensure children are registered at birth. Since 2014, UNHCR's work has seen more than 500,000 stateless people acquire a nationality.

Learn more about stateless people


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Refugees returning home 

When safe to do so, UNHCR helps refugees voluntarily return home. We provide transport and work to make sure they will be safe on their return – free from persecution, armed attacks and landmines. 

But our work does not end there. UNHCR continues to support refugees to rebuild their lives, many of whom have been away for years or even decades. We facilitate peace and reconciliation programmes and work with governments to build or repair schools, water systems and health clinics. We also help returnees access housing, work, and the same legal and civil-political rights as their fellow nationals.

Over the years UNHCR voluntary repatriation programmes have brought millions of people home. 

Learn more about Returnees


Please consider donating today

Your gift can help protect someone forced to flee their home due to conflict or persecution.