According to UN refugee agency United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR), 2016 has been the deadliest year for migrants with a total of 3,740 people have died since January in the Mediterranean sea in the boat journey to Europe.
The Office of the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR), also known as the UN Refugee Agency, is a United Nations programme mandated to protect and support refugees at the request of a government or the UN itself and assists in their voluntary repatriation, local integration or resettlement to a third country.
- Its headquarters are in Geneva, Switzerland, and it is a member of the United Nations Development Group. The UNHCR has won two Nobel Peace Prizes, once in 1954 and again in 1981.
- UNHCR was established on 14 December 1950 and succeeded the earlier United Nations Relief and Rehabilitation Administration. The agency is mandated to lead and co-ordinate international action to protect refugees and resolve refugee problems worldwide.
- Its primary purpose is to safeguard the rights and well-being of refugees. It strives to ensure that everyone can exercise the right toseek asylum and find safe refuge in another state, with the option to return home voluntarily, integrate locally or to resettle in a third country.
- UNHCR’s mandate has gradually been expanded to include protecting and providing humanitarian assistance to whom it describes as other persons “of concern,” including internally displaced persons (IDPs) who would fit the legal definition of a refugee under the 1951 United Nations Convention Relating to the Status of Refugees and 1967 Protocol, the 1969 Organization for African Unity Convention, or some other treaty if they left their country, but who presently remain in their country of origin. UNHCR presently has major missions in Lebanon, South Sudan, Chad/Darfur, Democratic Republic of Congo, Iraq, Afghanistan as well as Kenya to assist and provide services to IDPs and refugees in camps and in urban settings.
- To achieve its mandate, the UNHCR engaged in activities both in the countries of interest and in countries with donors. For example, the UNHCR hosts expert roundtables to discuss issues of concern to the international refugee community.
About the migrants.
According to the UNHCR, some 3,771 Mediterranean refugee deaths were reported for the whole of 2015.
- Over one million refugees crossed the Mediterranean to Europe last year. This year so far, crossings stand at 327,800.
- The International Organisation for Migration reports that 316,331 migrants and refugees entered Europe by sea in 2016 through 9 October, arriving mostly in Greece and Italy. Some 167,972 people have arrived in Greece and 144,527 in Italy during 2016. The total is well below the number of arrivals at this point in 2015, when over 520,000 migrants and refugees made the journey.
- According to the agency, the top-10 nationalities which represent 79 per cent of Mediterranean sea arrivals are Syria Arab Republic (28 per cent), Afghanistan (14 per cent), Iraq (nine per cent), Nigeria (eight per cent), Eritrea (five per cent), Pakistan (three per cent), Guinea (three per cent), Gambia (three per cent), Sudan (three per cent), and others (three per cent).
- UNHCR is addressing this situation while ensuring functioning asylum systems remains a policy challenge for many countries, but measures to save lives are available and UNHCR urges all countries to do more in this regard.
- Significantly expanding the availability of regular pathways for refugees to reach safety needs much greater and urgent attention.
- Such means include enhanced resettlement and humanitarian admissions, family reunification, private sponsorship, and humanitarian, student and work visas for refugees.