A refugee is a person who, "owing to a well-founded fear of being persecuted for reasons of race, religion, nationality, membership of a particular social group, or political opinion, is outside the country of their nationality, and is unable to or, owing to such a fear, is unwilling to, avail themselves of the protection of that country [...]" (The 1951 Convention relating to the Status of Refugees). Persons who have participated in war crimes and violations of humanitarian and human rights law including the crime of terrorism are specifically excluded from the protection accorded to refugees.
The United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR) provides protection and assistance to the world's refugees. Based in Geneva, Switzerland, the Agency was created on December 14, 1950, by the United Nations General Assembly and began work in 1951, initially aiding more than one million European refugees in the aftermath of the World War II. But in the following decades, as the number of uprooted people grew around the globe, its mandate was extended every five years. In December 2003, the UN General Assembly decided to remove the time limitation on UNHCR's mandate until the refugee problem is solved. During its lifetime, the Agency has helped more than 50 million people to successfully restart their lives, earning two Nobel Peace Prizes in the process - in 1954 and 1981.
UNHCR established a presence in Ukraine in 1994. In 2002 Ukraine acceded to the 1951 Convention relating to the Status of Refugees and its 1967 Protocol, and in 2013 — to the 1954 Stateless Persons Convention and 1961 Reduction of Statelessness Convention The role of UNHCR in Ukraine is to advise and assist the Government as well as monitor the implementation of the country’s international responsibilities relating to protection of refugees.
Photo: UNHCR/S. Hopper
Filippo Grandi became the 11th United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees on 1 January 2016. He was elected by the UN General Assembly to serve a five-year term, until 31 December 2020.
As High Commissioner, he heads one of the world's largest humanitarian organizations. UNHCR has twice won the Nobel Peace Prize. Its over 9,700 staff members work in 126 countries providing protection and assistance to nearly 60 million refugees, returnees, internally displaced people and stateless persons. Some 88 per cent of UNHCR staff work in the field, often in difficult and dangerous duty stations. The organization's needs-based budget for 2016 is US$6.5 billion.
The United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR) is mandated by the United Nations to lead and coordinate international action for the world-wide protection of refugees and the resolution of refugee problems.
UNHCR's primary purpose is to safeguard the rights and well-being of refugees. UNHCR strives to ensure that everyone can exercise the right to seek asylum and find safe refuge in another state, or to return home voluntarily. By assisting refugees to return to their own country or to settle in another country, UNHCR also seeks lasting solutions to their plight.
UNHCR's efforts are mandated by the organization's Statute, and guided by the 1951 United Nations Convention relating to the Status of Refugees and its 1967 Protocol.