The work of the Office of the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR) is humanitarian and non-political. Its principal functions are to provide international protection to refugees and other persons of concern, including stateless people, and to seek durable solutions for them. Protection includes preventing refoulement (the involuntary return of a refugee or a person of concern to a country where he or she may have a well-founded fear of persecution) and ensuring that host countries follow international norms in the treatment of refugees.
UNHCR helps refugees who wish to go home to do so once circumstances permit, assisting them to reintegrate into their home communities. Where this is not feasible, UNHCR seeks other solutions, whether in the countries where they have already found asylum or in third countries. Emergency and other material assistance is provided in collaboration with governmental, inter-governmental and non-governmental partners in the form of food, shelter, medical aid, education and other social services.
While its mandate specifically covers refugees, UNHCR has also frequently been asked by the UN Secretary-General to protect and assist internally displaced persons (IDPs) in conflict-generated emergencies. A comprehensive inter-agency agreement in 2005 reinforced and made more explicit the role of the UN and other humanitarian agencies involved in helping IDPs. Under this mechanism, UNHCR has assumed leadership for the protection, emergency shelter, and camp coordination and management aspects of conflict-related, internal displacement situations.
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