UNHCR Logo – The UN High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR in space Francophone), based in Geneva, is a program of the UN. Its original purpose of protecting refugees, to find a lasting solution to their problems and ensure the implementation of the Geneva Convention on Refugees of 1951. After the departure of Ruud Lubbers, in February 2005, replaced by the new High Commissioner António Guterres, “the number of persons of concern to UNHCR was 22.3 million, or one in 269 people worldwide. The number of refugees was 12.1 million, or 4% more than in 2000. Added to: 900 000 applicants for asylum, 800,000 returnees, 5.3 million IDPs, 400,000 IDPs returned home and 1.7 million others.”
Coming from a history of European asylum, UNHCR established in 1949 to develop a European text intended to manage the European Refugees: the Convention of 28 July 1951 on the Status of Refugees. It was only after 1967, under the constraining effects of decolonization, it opens to the world.
The UNHCR’s history can evoke, upstream of its creation, that of the Nansen Passport (1922) and the creation of the Intergovernmental Committee for Refugees (CIR) at the Evian Conference of 1938. The 1930’s are indeed a large influx of “displaced”, analyzed by Hannah Arendt (1951). States are setting up refugee camps, particularly in France, to host the Spanish refugees (there was talk then, officially, “concentration camps”, or “intern”).