Our photo library in Geneva is the world's largest collection of refugee-related photos covering nearly all of the major displacements of the last 60 years. These images provide a comprehensive portrait of the lives of refugees, asylum seekers, internally displaced people and the stateless in all corners of the globe, as well as the work of thousands of UN staff who have helped them. Most photos are showcased here and on Flickr. We offer the use of our photos free to the media - please just remember to credit us!
Looking Back: When Hungary’s Borders with Austria Opened for East Germans
Added 01 Oct 2014
It’s not often that a single sentence can send a photographer rushing into action, but Hungarian photographer Barnabas Szabo did not have to hear more than that of then-Hungarian Foreign Minister Guyla Horn’s televised announcement 25 years ago – September 10, 1989 – that at midnight Hungary would open its border with Austria and let East German refugees leave the country. “After the very first sentence I jumped up, took my camera, ran to my old Trabant and set off for the border,” he recalled. The effect of Hungary’s momentous decision was freedom for tens of thousands of East Germans who had been streaming into Hungary since May. At first they found refuge in the West German embassy, but as numbers grew, refugee camps were set up in Budapest and on the shores of Lake Balaton. The collapse of the Berlin Wall followed less than two months later. Communism was swept from Eastern Europe by the end of 1989. Another Hungarian photographer, Tamas Szigeti, who visited the abandoned refugee camp at Csilleberc the following day, recorded the haste in which people departed, leaving clothes, toys and even half-cooked dinners. No matter how uncertain the new life beckoning to them, the East Germans were clearly ready to leave fear and the Communist dictatorship behind forever.
By Ernő Simon
Forty Years Later, Antonio Goes Home
Added 01 Sep 2014
All Photos: UNHCR / Brian Sokol
Seated in a rickety chair under the single, bare bulb that illuminated his family’s rented apartment in Kinshasa, DRC, Antonio told his story. “I feel joy when I think that I will go home. It’s better to be a citizen of your own country than a refugee in another country. It’s liberation,” he said.
It had been forty years since Antonio set foot on Angolan soil, but three days after we spoke he would again know what it is to be a citizen—to feel that sense of liberation. Part of a greater campaign to end one of the oldest refugee situations in Africa, UNHCR launched a repatriation programme for former Angolan refugees living in the DRC on August 19th.
Antonio, his wife, sister and granddaughter were among the first 500 former Angolan refugees to make the journey home. Nearly 30,000 more are slated to follow. These pictures document their return from DR Congo’s capital of Kinshasa to the border with neighboring Angola. The two-day trip began with a 220 km train ride, followed by a 100 km journey by bus over rutted and dusty roads.
Even if the family has many questions about their new life in Angola, their joy is far greater than any apprehension. “I am so moved to go back that I can’t stop my tears. It is very strong. I will dance when we arrive at the border,” said Antonio’s sister Maria.
Despite living as a refugee in a foreign country for the better part of half a century, there is no question of where Antonio feels he belongs. “Angola is my home, it’s my country,” he said with the bright smile of a far younger man.
Ukraine: Sorting through the Wreckage
Added 08 Aug 2014
Conflict has changed the city of Sloviansk in the Donetsk region of eastern Ukraine. “We used to have such a beautiful, calm, tidy city,” says Angelina, a social worker. Today, it is full of destroyed homes and infrastructure, a casualty of the fighting between Ukrainian troops and pro-Russian forces. More than half of the inhabitants – some 70,000 people – fled the city during the combat earlier this year.
In recent weeks, with the city back under government control, around 15,000 have returned. But they face many challenges. Maria, aged 80, returned to a damaged home and sleeps in the kitchen with her family. She worries about getting her pension. The UN Refugee Agency has transported several tons of hygiene items and kitchen equipment to the city for distribution to those who lost their homes. Photojournalist Iva Zimova recently accompanied UNHCR staff as they visited more than 100 families to give put aid.