Wed 28/07/2021 - 14:45

July 28 marks the 70th anniversary of the signing of the 1951 Convention relating to the Status of Refugees. The Convention, signed in Geneva, defines who can be considered a refugee, and provides overall protection to those forced to flee. The Convention also contains fundamental rights, such as protection against discrimination, freedom of religion, free access to justice and the principle of non-refoulement

This text was originally intended to address the situation of the millions of people displaced by conflict and persecution in Europe. This geographical limitation was quickly lifted, and it has become clear over the years that persecution can take many different forms; the reasons why people are forced to flee have become increasingly complex.  

The principles of the Convention are therefore now complemented by international and regional human rights standards that have emerged over the past 70 years, some of which go beyond the minimum standards of the Refugee Convention.

We decided to celebrate this anniversary milestone by looking back at seven decades of photo archives from UNHCR, the UN Refugee Agency. These images are a testament to the resilience, courage, and strength of refugees over time, and are historical witnesses to the many conflicts, violence, and persecution that have driven people into exile since 1951. They highlight the importance of protecting and supporting forcibly displaced people around the world, all 82.4 million of them; a figure which has more than doubled in 10 years.  

The refugee cause is one of the most pressing humanitarian issues of our generation, and history shows us that that these challenges can only be overcome together. 


Geneva © Arni/UN Archives
Germany © IRO
Austria © UNHCR
Austria © UNHCR/Szabo


Tunisia © UNHCR/Stanley Wright
Uganda © UNHCR/W.McCoy
Germany © UNHCR
Morocco © UNHCR/Stanley Wright
Tanzania © UNHCR/Jean Mohr


India © UNHCR/Stanley Wright
Ethiopia © UNHCR/Jean Mohr
Cyprus © UNHCR/Jean Mohr
Thailand © UNHCR/Jim Becket
Malaysia © UNHCR/Kaspar Gaugler
Bangladesh © UNHCR/L. Jenkins
Hong Kong © UNHCR/Jim Becket
Switzerland © UNHCR/D.A.Giulianotti


Argentina © UNHCR/A.Cherep
Mexico © UNHCR/P.Jambor
Afghanistan © UNHCR/Hervé Gloaguen
Namibia © UNHCR/Lars Aström
Sudan © UNHCR/E.Menemencioglu
Angola © UNHCR/J.Jessen-Petersen
Panama © UNHCR/M. Meton
Hungary © UNHCR/Szabó Barna


Tadjikistan © UNHCR/Anneliese Hollmann
Mauritania © UNHCR/G.Matoso
Iran © UNHCR/Anneliese Hollmann
Dem. Republic of Congo © UNHCR/Radhika Chalasani
Croatia © UNHCR/Anneliese Hollmann
Ethiopia © UNHCR/Liba Taylor
Ex-Yougoslav Republic © UNHCR/Roger LeMoyne
Kosovo © UNHCR/Roger LeMoyne
Myanmar © UNHCR/Anneliese Hollmann


Russia © UNHCR/T.Makeeva
Iraq © UNHCR/Ann Eriksson
Sudan © UNHCR/Hélène Caux
Yemen © UNHCR/Jón Björgvinsson
Sri Lanka © UNHCR/Norman Ng
Eritrea © UNHCR/S.Boness


Greece © UNHCR/Gordon Welters
Bangladesh © UNHCR/Roger Arnold
Ukraine © UNHCR/Andrew McConnell
Yemen © UNHCR/Mohammed Hamoud
Dem. Republic of Congo © UNHCR/Brian Sokol
Mali © UNHCR/Mark Henley
Nepal © UNHCR/Diego Ibarra Sánchez
Iraq © UNHCR/Ivor Prickett
Syria © UNHCR/Antwan Chnkdji
Colombia © UNHCR/Andrew McConnell
South Sudan © UNHCR/Andrew McConnell
Bangladesh © UNHCR/Roger Arnold