UNHCR was established by United Nations General Assembly Resolution 319 A (IV) and began operations on 1 January 1951. Initially established as a temporary office, with a projected life span of three years, UNHCR’s mandate was then extended every five years to respond to the world’s growing refugee problems until 2003, when the General Assembly adopted a resolution that allowed for the continuation of the bureau “until the refugee problem is solved”.



UNHCR is one of the world’s principal humanitarian organizations, with 262 offices in 116 countries and a staff of 6,885 persons – 85% of whom work in field locations. At the beginning of 2005 there were 19.1 million refugees and others of concern who fell under the mandate of the bureau, which has been awarded the Nobel Peace Prize twice.


Persons of concern


Refugees: 9.2 million


Asylum seekers: 840,000


Returnees: 1.5 million


Stateless persons: 1.5 million


Internally displaced persons: 5.4 million


Others of concern: 590,000



UNHCR's facts and figures