United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees

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  United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees
Abbreviation UNHCR
Founded 1 January 1951
Headquarters Geneva
Main Organisation United Nations
Website http://www.unhcr.org

United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR), serves as the refugee organization of UN. UNHCR was granted authority by UN with regard to regulating international actions related to refugee protection, leading and resolving refugee problems.

UNHCR was founded by the United Nations General Assembly in 1st of January 1951 for a period of 5 years and commenced its operation by helping more than one million refugees in Europe following World War II.

In the following years, the tenure of the organization was prolonged every five years as a result of the increase in the number of displaced people world wide. UN General Assembly decided to revoke the limitation on the term of office of UNHCR in December of 2003. As of 2008, the organization has 268 offices in 117 different countries and personnel of 7.000 people.

The number of people within the “field of concern” of UNHCR is 32.9 million by the year of 2007. The figure increased 58 % compared to its previous figure of 20.8 million. This increase is a result of incrementing figures of internally displaced and stateless persons within countries helped by the organization[1].

People of concern for UNHCR are not strictly limited to refugees. Refouled refugees, stateless persons and a part of approximately 26 million of internally displaced people are of concern for UNHCR.

Central office of UNHCR is located in Geneva/Switzerland and the organization serves to provide international protection for refugees and cooperated with governments to for definite resolutions to refugee problems. These two definitions which summarize the duties of UNHCR is significantly important; International protection and definitive resolution.

International protection means securing the access to security, non-refoulement to a place of danger, benefiting from fundamental human rights; to people seeking asylum in other countries when their country of origin willingly or unwillingly failed to protect these fundamental rights and freedoms.

Definitive resolution includes elements not as easily defined as international protection. There are “definitive resolutions” for each individual and group molded by their different backgrounds. However, in basic terms, these resolutions might be given as follows; permanent residence in country of refuge, residence in a secure 3rd country or willingly returning to the country of origin following the amelioration of the conditions in the country of origin.

Within this framework, the activities of UNHCR vary by countries and regions. For example: when observed it might be noticed that UNHCR Australian Office executes operations related to replacement, legal counsel, education and creating awareness within public while UNHCR Pakistan Office is primarily engaged in operations related to providing health, shelter, drinking water and food for Afghan refugee camps and placement to 3rd countries.

  1. 2007 Global Trends, UNHCR, July 2008, http://www.unhcr.org/statistics/STATISTICS/4852366f2.pdf

Source: Orçun Ulusoy; 2008; Sorularla İnsan Hakları; İnsan Hakları Gündemi Derneği; Turkish


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