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.
As Winter Approaches, Syrians in Jordan Prepare for the Cold
As winter approaches and Syria's raging war shows no signs of abating, Syrian civilians continue their desperate flight across borders to safety. Most have fled with nothing and some arrive barefoot in Jordan after walking for miles without shoes to reach the border in the increasingly cold and harsh conditions. Their arrival at UNHCR's Za'atri camp reception area often marks the first time they have been in a warm area without fear since the war began. In the dawn hours when most people arrive, they appear as exhausted bodies under blankets. And when they wake, you can see the agony of their ordeal etched on their faces. Throughout the refugee camp, a cottage clothing industry has arisen on every street corner. Throughout the region, UNHCR and its partners are moving quickly to distribute thermal blankets, extra food rations and clothing to ensure that the least vulnerable refugees are protected. The following photographs were taken by Greg Beals, working for UNHCR.
East Africans continue to flood into the Arabian Peninsula
Every month, thousands of refugees, asylum-seekers and migrants from Somalia and Ethiopia cross the Gulf of Aden or the Red Sea to reach Yemen, fleeing drought, poverty, conflict or persecution. And although this year's numbers are, so far, lower than in 2012 - about 62,200 in the first 10 months compared to 88,533 for the same period last year - the Gulf of Aden remains one of the world's most travelled sea routes for irregular migration (asylum-seekers and migrants). UNHCR and its local partners monitor the coast to provide assistance to the new arrivals and transport them to reception centres. Those who make it to Yemen face many challenges and risks. The government regards Somalis as prima facie refugees and automatically grants them asylum, but other nationals such as the growing number of Ethiopians can face detention. Some of the Somalis make their own way to cities like Aden, but about 50 a day arrive at Kharaz Refugee Camp, which is located in the desert in southern Yemen. Photographer Jacob Zocherman recently visited the Yemen coast where arrivals land, and the camp where many end up.
Conflict in Central African Republic
Since December 2012, the Central African Republic has been caught in a vicious cycle of violence that has seen some 400 people killed and 800 homes burned. This violence has caused as many as 400,000 people to flee their homes in search of safety. Many of the displaced live in the bush and are in need of shelter, food, water, sanitation and health care, especially during the current rainy season. In addition, many children have become separated from their families in the chaos of flight. Most of the affected are from areas outside Bangui, the capital, mainly from Ouham prefecture, where there are 175,000 displaced, with almost 40,000 in Bossangoa. Of these, some 37,000 are camping in dire conditions on the grounds of the Catholic Church and hundreds more in a school and a hospital. Photographer Boris Heger was in the area earlier this year and took these powerful images. The people still need help and the situation remains unstable.
A Family of Somali Artists Continue to Create in Exile
During two decades of conflict and chaos in Somalia, Mohammed Ousman stayed in Mogadishu and taught art as others fled the country. But life became impossible after Al Shabaab militants killed his brother for continuing to practise art. Four of the man's nine children were also murdered. Mohammed closed his own "Picasso Art School" and married his brother's widow, in accordance with Somali custom. But without a job, the 57-year-old struggled to support two families and eventually this cost him his first family. Mohammed decided to leave, flying to Berbera in Somaliland in late 2011 and then crossing to Aw-Barre refugee camp in Ethiopia, where he joined his second wife and her five children. UNHCR transferred Mohammed and his family to Addis Ababa on protection grounds, and in the belief that he could make a living there from his art. But he's discovering that selling paintings and drawings can be tough - he relies on UNHCR support. The following images of the artist and his family were taken by UNHCR's Kisut Gebre Egziabher.
A Cry for Those in Peril on the Sea
Earlier this month, within sight of shore after a long journey from Libya, a boat carrying hundreds of people foundered off the Italian island of Lampedusa. More than 300 people, many of them children, drowned and only 156 people were picked out of the water alive. The tragedy was staggering for its heavy death toll, but it is unlikely to prevent people from making the dangerous and irregular journey by sea to try and reach Europe. Many seek a better life in Europe, but others are escaping persecution in countries like Eritrea and Somalia. And it's not just happening on the Mediterranean. Desperate people fleeing poverty, conflict or persecution are risking their lives to cross the Gulf of Aden from Africa; Rohingya from Myanmar are heading into the Bay of Bengal on flimsy boats in search of a safe haven; people of several nationalities try to reach Australia by boat; others cross the Caribbean. And many remember the Vietnamese boat people exodus of the 1970s and 1980s. As then, governments need to work together to reduce the risk to life. These photos, from UNHCR's archives, capture the plight of boat people around the world.