UNHCR, the UN Refugee Agency

UNHCR, the UN Refugee Agency, is a global organization dedicated to saving lives, protecting rights and building a better future for refugees, forcibly displaced communities and stateless people. We lead on international action to protect people forced to flee from their homes because of conflict and persecution.

Agency Overview

UNHCR was established by the General Assembly of the United Nations in 1950 in the aftermath of the Second World War to help the millions of people who had lost their homes. Today, UNHCR works in 135 countries. The UNHCR office in Brussels was established in 1952 – just one year after the Refugee Convention came into force.

In Brussels, UNHCR has a dedicated office working daily with counterparts in the European Union  (EU) institutions and agencies to advocate for the protection of displaced people within the region and around the world. We also work with EU member states’ permanent missions and with civil society, lawyers, think tanks and the media to bring about change.

UNHCR also has a country office in Belgium which focuses on supporting authorities and organizations working with refugees, asylum seekers and stateless people. We seek to ensure that legislation, procedures, policies, and practices align with international protection standards. In addition, UNHCR runs awareness campaigns targeted at the general public to shine a light on the situation of refugees in Belgium and around the globe.

Services and Programs

UNHCR protects people forced to flee their homes as well as stateless persons. We deliver life-saving assistance in emergencies, safeguard fundamental human rights, and support States to help find long-term solutions.

In Brussels, UNHCR works with the EU to better protect refugees in the EU and globally through policy and advocacy efforts and court interventions. UNHCR advocates for support to countries and regions where most forcibly displaced people currently reside, and for EU laws and policies to be aligned with the 1951 Refugee Convention and its 1967 Protocol.

Key Areas of Work

Protecting people forced to flee

UNHCR delivers life-saving assistance and protection in emergency situations, advocates for improved asylum laws and systems so displaced people can access their rights, and helps find long-term solutions, including supporting them so they can return home once it is safe to do so. Aside from protecting and assisting refugees, UNHCR aims to support States so refugees can find solutions that allow them to rebuild their lives wherever they are. We also work to ensure that stateless people are granted a nationality so they can access basic rights, such as education and health care.

Responding to emergencies

UNHCR helps people displaced from their homes settle in a safe place, far from conflict or those trying to harm them. It rapidly delivers life-saving supplies and mobilizes expert staff to protect refugees. We work to ensure refugees and displaced people have access to international protection and life-saving assistance.

Protecting human rights

UNHCR works to protect refugees, displaced and stateless people by advocating for their rights. We work with governments and partners to advise on and strengthen laws and national systems and help provide services. Through this we help ensure displaced people can access documentation, education, work and health care. We also work to ensure stateless people achieve their right to a nationality. 

Building better futures

UNHCR helps refugees find employment so they can support themselves and their families with dignity and contribute their skills to host communities. We also help children and young people access education, giving them a sense of normalcy and safeguarding their future.

Seeking long-term solutions for refugees is central to our mandate. Once it is safe to do so, we help families and individuals return to their homeland. For those who cannot return because of continued conflict, war or persecution, UNHCR helps support host States to ensure their inclusion or integration into a host country, or supports resettlement to a third country.


UNHCR launched a new global campaign this year entitled ‘Hope Away From Home’ calling for renewed solidarity and firm commitments from States to uphold the rights of people seeking safety from war, violence and persecution. The campaign is also accompanied by the launch of a global petition calling for members of the public, organizations and world leaders to take a stand and add their name in solidarity with refugees. The petition will be showcased at the Global Refugee Forum 2023 as a gesture of solidarity from people around the world.

World Refugee Day is an international day designated by the United Nations to honour refugees around the globe. It falls each year on 20 June and celebrates the strength and courage of people who have been forced to flee their home country to escape war, conflict or persecution.


Charged with protecting millions around the world, UNHCR works with a wide variety of government donors and partners to adequately fulfil our role. Our partnerships range from governments to non-governmental organizations, the private sector, civil society and refugee communities.

Support and Funding

‌UNHCR relies almost entirely on voluntary contributions. Individual governments and the European Union provide 85 per cent of our budget. Another 11 per cent comes from individuals and the private sector, including foundations, corporations and the public.

You can donate online to help refugees, asylum-seekers and stateless people in need by visiting our website at the following address: donate.unhcr.org.



Global Report:
The Global Report presents the work carried out by UNHCR in 2022 to protect and improve the lives of tens of millions of people forced to flee. It highlights the year’s achievements, as well as challenges faced by the organization and its partners – read more.

Global Trends Report: 
UNHCR’s Global Trends report presents key statistical trends and the latest numbers of refugees, asylum seekers, internally displaced and stateless persons worldwide, as well as numbers of people who have returned to their countries or areas of origin – read more.

Research Papers:
Access our comprehensive research papers on various topics related to our agency’s work – read more. 

Policy Briefs:
Explore concise summaries of our policy recommendations and key findings – read more.

Support our work

‌Support our work with refugees by subscribing to our YouTube channels and sharing it with your friends and contacts.

  • UNHCR’s Global YouTube: @UNHCR
  • UNHCR’s Belgium & Luxembourg YouTube: @UNHCRBelux