UNHCR’s first task in 1951 was to help an estimated one million mainly European civilians, such as these refugees in a camp in Germany, still uprooted in the aftermath of the Second World War. UNHCR
The agency’s predecessor, the International Refugee Organization, had helped people, including these Europeans from camps in Germany, Austria and Italy, to resettle in other countries. UNHCR
In the Hungarian uprising in 1956, UNHCR faced its first post-war emergency, coordinating help for more than 200,000 people who fled that country. UNHCR
Africa’s first modern refugee crisis occurred in the late 1950s during Algeria’s independence struggle against France. UNHCR, during its first intervention on the African continent, provided assistance for 200,000 refugees who fled to surrounding countries. UNHCR
As colonialism came to a close, conflicts erupted in many parts of Africa in the 1960s including strife in the central African state of Rwanda. UNHCR
The flight of 10 million Bengalis to India in 1971 was the most dramatic exodus of the 20th century. UNHCR acted as a focal point for a vast relief operation. UNHCR
The flight of Vietnamese refugees began after the fall of Saigon to North Vietnam forces in 1975. An estimated one million, including these Vietnamese boat people arriving in Malaysia in 1978, fled in the wake of the various conflicts in Indochina. UNHCR
Miskito Indians from Nicaragua wait for a food distribution at a Honduran camp during the 1980s. UNHCR
The exodus of more than six million Afghans started in 1979. People fled to such sites as the Ghazi Refugee Village in Pakistan. UNHCR
After more than 15 years in exile, an estimated 41,000 refugees from Namibia returned home in 1989, including these civilians leaving Lubango in Angola. UNHCR
The Gulf War in the early 1990s was followed by the exodus of 1.5 million Iraqi Kurds. Some refugees, including these children, were able to return home within weeks. UNHCR
An estimated 250,000 Rohingya refugees from Myanmar began arriving in Bangladesh in early 1991. Many returned home where UNHCR provides assistance and monitors their wellbeing. UNHCR
Some of the refugees originating from Bhutan ended up staying in seven camps in eastern Nepal. This picture was taken in 1992, but a resettlement programme was launched in late 2007 and 40,000 of the refugees had been resettled by late 2010. UNHCR
Women and children mourn the deaths of their menfolk one year after the fall of Srebrenica. War in the Balkans in the 1990s displaced one million people and 8,000 men and boys from the Bosnian Muslim enclave of Srebrenica were executed. UNHCR
The 1994 genocide in Rwanda triggered a massive exodus into neighbouring Democratic Republic of Congo and Tanzania, where huge camps, such as this one established in the Ngara area of Tanzania, sprung up. UNHCR
At least 20,000 people were killed, a half million people were displaced and 60,000 civilians fled to Afghanistan, including this doctor and patient, when civil war erupted in the Central Asian nation of Tajikistan in 1992. UNHCR
Refugees began flooding back into Kosovo virtually as quickly as they had left, but many returned to scenes of utter destruction. UNHCR
The end of the 20th Century was marked by a refugee exodus from East Timor. When an international force restored order, many of the displaced were able to go home with the help of UNHCR. UNHCR
Chad/Sudanese refugees from the Darfur region in Bahai. The first rain of the season flooded the temporary shelters of refugees camped in a waddi running along the Chad-Sudan border. All were forced to find new shelter. UNHCR
For more than six decades the United Nations refugee agency has been helping the world’s uprooted peoples.
This content was published on December 24, 2010
December 24, 2010
The agency’s first task was to help an estimated one million people, mainly European civilians displaced in the aftermath of the Second World War.
But during the 1950s the refugee crisis spread to Africa, later to Asia and then back to Europe, becoming a global problem. At the end of 2009, on the eve of UNHCR's 60th birthday, more than 26 million forcibly displaced people were receiving protection or assistance from UNHCR. (pictures: UNHCR)
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