Role Of UNHCR In Protection Of Refugee And Other Displaced Person?

“No one leaves home unless home is the mouth of a shark” – Warsan Shire


Throughout the globe and over the centuries societies have accepted the people coming from another territory. Where people have roof over their head its normal they never want to leave their own shelter, circumstances forces to leave.  Sometimes they forced to left the place and sometimes to stay alive they flee. As every human being has rights reserved same as the displaced people also have rights, just because they entered into another territory it doesn’t mean that their rights also flee. Government guarantee the basic human rights and physical security not only of their own citizens but also to refugees on their territory.


Who is a Refugee

In dictionary meaning a person who has been forced to leave her or his country or shelter in order to escape war, prosecution or natural disaster is a refugee.

The 1951 Refugee Convention defines a refugee as, “someone who is unable or unwilling to return to their country of origin to a well-founded fear of being persecuted for reason of race, religion, nationality, membership of a particular social group, or political opinion.”

Who is an Internally Displaced Person (IDP)

Internally displaced persons are not refugee because they don’t cross the border to take shelter. Internally displaced persons can be defined as a person who is forced to flee from her or his house but who may remains within her or his country.

Who is a Stateless Person

In international law, a stateless person is someone who is not considered as a national by any state under the operation of its law. Some stateless people are also refugees. However, not all refugees are stateless, and many people who are stateless have never crossed an international border.

Who is an Asylum Seeker

An asylum seeker is someone who has left their home or country as a political refugee and is seeking asylum in another territory.


At least 70.8 million people around the world have been forced to flee their homes. Among them are nearly 25.9 million refugees. There are so many reasons behind a person to become refugee, 5 important facts are discussed below:

  • War

Most of the refugees flee from their country because of war. Currently across the world a larger number of refugees fleeing from the civil conflict in Syria. Before Syria in 1980’s, 90’s and 2000 the refugees fled from the war in Iraq and Afghanistan.

  • Religious/National/Social/Racial/Political Persecution

The most common reasons people became refugees’ are religious, national, racial, political persecution. Around the world the religious refugees are everywhere from Muslim persecuted in Myanmar to Christian in the African Republic to Hindus in Pakistan.

  • Gender or Sexual Orientation

This is another important reason to be displaced. Society never accepted the LGBTI , they had been always victim of every situations, sometimes they  are killed, physical attacks, torture, gender based violence, immoral behaviour, discrimination in employment, health and educational in all regions around the world.

  • Climate change

Though officially climate change is not yet a valid reason to claim asylum, in 2013, the first climate change refugee asylum case was shot down by the New Zealand High Court when a Kiribati man attempted to claim that status by law.

  • Hunger

It is another important reason to become refugee. Without having own shelter a human can still alive but without food it’s impossible to alive. It’s estimated that 20 million people in four North African and Middle Eastern countries – Somalia, South Sudan, Nigeria, and Yemen – are facing extreme drought, and many of these individuals are becoming refugees, forced from their homelands in search of stable food sources.


The protection of refugees has many aspects. From providing shelter to securing basic human rights and allow them to live with dignity all are come under the protection. Generally, government secures the basic human rights and physical protection to the civilians, apart from own citizens government also secure the rights of those displaced people who take shelter in their territory. Non-governmental organizations (NGOs) play an important role in protection of the refugees. UNCR also is a crucial part of this protection. It works closely with the government by advising and supporting them as needed.

The 1951 UN Refugee Convention and 1967 Protocol

The 1951 Refugee Convention was the key international instrument of refugee law which helps to build understanding among the states on refugee protection. The aim of this Convention was to protect the refugees. It defines the term protection and laid down one most important principle that refugee should not be returned to that place where their life would be threatened. The legal principles enshrine by the convention have permeated into countless other international, regional and national laws and practices governing the way refugees are treated.

By December 2008, a total of 147 countries had signed the 1951 UN Refugee Convention and/or its 1967 Protocol.

United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees

What is UNHCR

The office of United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees or UN Refugee Agency or UNCHR was created by the UN General Assembly on December 14, 1950. The agency’s command was to lead and co-ordinate international action to protect refugees and resolve the problems worldwide. The main purpose is to protect the rights and well-being of refugees.

Evolution of the Role of UNHCR

From the establishment of the agency, it worked not only to strengthen legal instruments such as the 1951 Convention, but continuously assisted the related groups such as IDPs and the stateless, worked directly in conflict areas and has provided material as well as legal assistance to help victims of major natural disasters.

  • In 1947 UNHCR appointed by the UN as monitoring and protecting the entire stateless person.
  • In the 1990s UNHCR ran the world’s longest-ever airlift to assist besieged populations in Bosnia and Herzegovina.
  • In 2001, the most important global refugee conference in half a century adopted a landmark declaration reaffirming the commitment of signatory states to the 1951 Refugee Convention. Through a process of global consultations, UNHCR drew up an “Agenda for Protection,”
  • The agency launched major operations help victims of natural disasters, including the 2004 Indian Ocean tsunami, the 2005 Pakistan earthquake, Cyclone Nargis in Myanmar and China’s 2008 Sichuan earthquake.

How UNCHR Works

The UNCR strives to ensure the refugees that they can exercise the right to seek asylum and find safe refuge in another country, and to return home voluntarily. There are so many functions of UNCR on which the agency works, few of them are discussed below:

  • Assisting the refugees

Protection and material help are interrelated. The main goal of UNHCR is to protect the refugees and other displaced persons. It helps to exercise their rights and promote accession. The agency also provides basic needs i.e. shelter, food, water, sanitation and medical care.

  • Local interrogation and Resettlement

Those refugees who had no option to go home or unwilling to do so due to any reason the UNHCR helps to find them new home, either in their current asylum country or in third country where they can be permanently resettled. Now there are 25 countries regularly offers to resettlement places, with Bulgaria, Hungary, and Spain being the most recent new settlement states. Japan also started to implement its pilot resettlement programme in 2010.

  • Funding

UNCHR funded almost entirely by voluntary contributions, principally from governments but also from inter governmental organizations, corporations and individuals.

  • Partnership

Partnership is important to UNHCR and as humanitarian crises have become more complex, UNHCR expanded both the number and type of organization it works with. Its operational partners now include more than 740 international and national NGOs.


In protecting the refugees and other displaced person the role of UNHC, the 1951 Convention and its 1967 Protocol plays supervisory role. Though most of the refugees stay permanently in the shelter provided territory still their rights must be protected as the own citizens of the country. They should not be forced to go that place or in danger from where they flee to secure their life.

This article has been written by Suparna Roy, B.A LL.B (HONS) at Department of Law, University of North Bengal.

Also Read – Refugee Crisis In The Modern Day World

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