The Office of the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees was established on December 14, 1950 by the United Nations General Assembly. The agency is mandated to lead and co-ordinate international action to protect refugees and resolve refugee problems worldwide. Its primary purpose is to safeguard the rights and well-being of refugees. It strives to ensure that everyone can exercise the right to seek asylum and find safe refuge in another State, with the option to return home voluntarily, integrate locally or to resettle in a third country. It also has a mandate to help stateless people.

In more than six decades, the agency has helped tens of millions of people restart their lives. Today, a staff of some 7,685 people in more than 125 countries continues to help some 33.9 million persons.

Learn more about the work of UNHCR around the world.

UNHCR in Asia and the Pacific

In the Asia region, mixed migratory movements continue to be a defining feature of the region, with some people moving in search of better livelihoods, while others flee persecution or conflict. In an environment where States' concerns about national security and bilateral relations take priority over refugee protection, UNHCR continues to advocate for respect of the right of asylum and the preservation of "asylum space" in the region.

The working environment in the Asia-Pacific region is unique in many respects: it covers a vast geographical area comprising 45 countries and territories and hosts one third of the world's refugees -- some 3.5 million people. Both Pakistan and the Islamic Republic of Iran continue to host some of the world's largest refugee populations. About 1.6 million registered Afghan refugees remain in Pakistan and another 840,000 in the Islamic Republic of Iran. In addition to the registered refugees, an estimated 1 million undocumented Afghans live in Pakistan and some 1.4 million in the Islamic Republic of Iran.

Some 66 per cent of the people of concern to UNHCR in Asia and the Pacific reside in urban settings, and in the Islamic Republic of Iran that figure rises to 97 per cent. The region also has long-standing camp situations in Nepal, Bangladesh and Thailand.

The number of new asylum applications in Asia and the Pacific has increased recently, placing new strains on national institutions and UNHCR's mandate refugee status determination (RSD) programmes. The region also has UNHCR's largest resettlement programme, accounting for half of all departures worldwide.

Though only 20 countries in the region have acceded to the 1951 Refugee Convention and its 1967 Protocol (including Afghanistan, Iran, Japan, South Korea, China, Australia, and New Zealand), there is a long, informal tradition of providing protection on a humanitarian basis to refugees.

UNHCR continues to advocate for increased protection space, unhindered access to asylum, fair and efficient refugee status determination (RSD) procedures and expanded opportunities for durable solutions for all the people of concern in Asia.

Learn more about the work of UNHCR in Asia and Pacific.


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