Putting Our Work into Focus
A picture tells a thousand words - and UNHCR has more than 250,000 of them dating back decades. The agency's photo library in Geneva is guardian of the world's largest collection of refugee-related photos covering nearly all of the major displacements of the last 60 years. These images provide a comprehensive portrait of the lives of refugees, asylum seekers, internally displaced people and the stateless in all corners of the globe, as well as the work of the thousands of UN staff who have helped them. Many of our best photos are showcased on this website and on the social networking site, Flickr. We offer the use of our photos free to the media.
Afghanistan: An Uncertain Future
For over a quarter of a century, Afghanistan has been devastated by conflict and civil strife, with some 8 million people uprooted internally and in neighbouring countries. The overthrow of the Taliban in 2001 resulted in one of the largest and most successful return operations in history.
Seven years on, more than 5 million Afghan refugees have returned - increasing Afghanistan's population by an estimated 20 percent.The large majority have gone back to their areas of origin. However, some recent returnees are facing more difficulties as the country's absorption capacity reaches its limits in some areas. Last year, some Afghans returned before they were ready or able to successfully reintegrate due to the closure of refugee villages as well as the deteriorating conditions in Pakistan. In consequence, 30,000 Afghan refugees returned to further displacement in their homeland, unable to return to their villages due to conflict, lack of land, shelter materials, basic services and job opportunities. These challenges have been compounded elsewhere across the country by food insecurity and severe drought.
UNHCR and the Afghan Foreign Ministry highlighted the requirements for sustainable refugee return and reintegration at an international conference in Kabul in November 2008. The donor community welcomed the inclusion of refugee reintegration within the government's five-year national development strategy and the emphasis on land, shelter, water, sanitation, education, health care and livelihoods. It is anticipated that repatriation and reintegration will become more challenging in future.
Serbia: Europe's forgotten refugees
A study of the lives of three Europeans who have been living as refugees in Serbia for more than 15 years.
Serbia is the only European country with a protracted refugee population. More than 90,000 refugees from Croatia and from Bosnia and Herzegovina remain there, victims of wars that erupted after the break-up of the former Yugoslavia in 1991.
These long-term refugees live under appalling conditions in dingy apartments and overcrowded collective centres – the nearest thing to refugee camps in modern Europe.
This set of pictures tells the story of three displaced people, the problems they face and their hopes for the future.
Afghans Return Home
In the six months since some 150 families returned from Pakistan's Jalozai refugee village, they have faced land problems and ethnic tensions. Today, however, they face the prospect of spending a bitter winter in northern Afghanistan with little more for shelter than canvas tents.
After 23 years of exile in Pakistan, Qayum and his family returned home to northern Afghanistan earlier this year ago after negotiating to buy land in Sholgara district. But a local tribe refused to let Qayum and his neighbours unload their trucks. The provincial authorities moved them to their current site at Mohajir Qeshlaq. The government has promised Qayum and his neighbours land, but until individual plots can be demarcated and distributed, nobody can build. This means that the entire returnee village - some 150 families - lives under canvas. As the weather turns cold, the prospect of spending an Afghan winter in a tent becomes reality. Returnees also face a food shortage, insufficient water and lack of livelihood opportunities.
In an effort to help, UNHCR will provide supplies to Qayum and his community through the winter. Once the land issue is resolved, the agency will also dig wells and provide shelter assistance to the most vulnerable families at Mohajir Qeshlaq. But it will take more to turn this makeshift settlement into something they can call home.
Afghan Street Children Turn from Beggars to Beauticians
A UNHCR-funded project in Kabul, Afghanistan, is helping to keep returnee children off the streets by teaching them to read and write, give them room to play and offer vocational training in useful skills such as tailoring, flower making, and hairstyling.
Every day, Afghan children ply the streets of Kabul selling anything from newspapers to chewing gum, phone cards and plastic bags. Some station themselves at busy junctions and weave through traffic waving a can of smoking coal to ward off the evil eye. Others simply beg from passing strangers.
There are an estimated 50,000 to 60,000 street children in the Afghan capital alone. Among them are those who could not afford an education as refugees in Iran or Pakistan, and are unable to go to school as returnees in Afghanistan because they have to work from dawn to dusk to support their families. For the past seven years, a UNHCR-funded project has been working to bring change.
Posted on 12 November 2008