"Everyone has the right to seek and to enjoy in other countries asylum from persecution."
- Article 14 of the Universal Declaration on Human Rights.

There are refugees in virtually every country around the world and we hear about their plight on a daily basis through the media. People become refugees when one or more of their fundamental human rights are threatened or violated, and they are forced to flee. Nobody chooses to become a refugee.

A refugee is not just a "foreigner". Living in exile often means initially having to depend on the goodwill of others for basic necessities, such as food, shelter and clothing – as well as to feel welcomed in their new communities. Often refugees end up contributing to their new societies in many ways.

Refugees are a painful reminder of the failure of some States to provide a safe life for their citizens, free from violence and persecution. Generating awareness of refugees and life in exile can highlight the importance of peaceful conflict resolution, economic stability and respect for international human rights.

Governments normally guarantee the basic human rights of their citizens, but refugees – often victimized by the very State meant to protect them – do not have this safety-net. UNHCR is the UN agency responsible for the safety and well-being of refugees and others in need of international protection and assists host countries towards this end in every way possible. UNHCR's primary role is to ensure that States are aware of their international responsibility to protect refugees, and that no person is returned involuntarily to a country where he or she has reason to fear persecution. UNHCR provides lifesaving assistance to those forced to flee their homes, such as shelter, medical care, food, clean water and education.

UNHCR also helps refugees find lasting solutions. Voluntary repatriation, or return to their original homes, is what most refugees hope for, but this is not always possible. In those cases UNHCR helps people rebuild their lives elsewhere – either in the countries where they first sought asylum or in a third country willing to accept them for resettlement.



Canadian Teacher Introduction

Teacher's resources and additional links.

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London Underground

UK education resources

Teacher's Guide and additional links and resources.

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United States Teacher Introduction

Teacher's resources and additional links.

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Links to organizations working with issues about refugees and human rights.


Universal Declaration of Human Rights

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