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!
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.
Haunted by a Sinking Ship
Added 31 Jul 2014
Thamer and Thayer are two brothers from Syria who risked their lives in the hope of reaching Europe. The sea voyage was fraught with danger. But home had become a war zone.
Before the conflict, they led a simple life in a small, tight-knit community they describe as “serene”. Syria offered them hope and a future. Then conflict broke out and they were among the millions forced to flee, eventually finding their way to Libya and making a desperate decision.
At a cost of US$ 2,000 each, they boarded a boat with over 200 others and set sail for Italy. They knew that capsizing was a very real possibility. But they hadn’t expected bullets, fired by militiamen and puncturing their boat off the coast of Lampedusa.
As water licked their ankles, the brothers clung to one another in the chaos. “I saw my life flash before my eyes,” recalls Thayer. “I saw my childhood. I saw people from when I was young. Things I thought I no longer remembered.”
After ten terrifying hours, the boat capsized in the Mediterranean Sea, throwing occupants overboard. Rescue, when it finally came, was too late for many.
Theirs was the second of two deadly shipwrecks off the coast of Lampedusa last October. Claiming hundreds of lives, the disasters sparked a debate on asylum policy in Europe, leading Italian authorities to launch the Mare Nostrum search and rescue operation. To date, it has saved more than 80,000 people in distress at sea.
Eight months on, having applied for asylum in a sleepy coastal town in western Sicily, Thamer and Thayer are waiting to restart their lives.
“We want to make our own lives and move on,” they explain.