UNHCR was established on December 14, 1950 by the UN General Assembly. Nowadays the UNHCR is one of the major humanitarian organizations in the world, providing assistance to more than 24 million people.
UNHCR's headquarters are placed in of Geneva. On January 1, 2016 Mr. Filippo Grandi of Italy became the new High Commissioner for Refugees.
The Office of UNHCR in Kazakhstan opened in August 1995. Now it has representations in Kazakhstan, Turkmenistan, Kyrgyzstan and Tajikistan, and also limited presence in Uzbekistan on the UNDP projects. The UNHCR office which combines functions of Regional representative for Central Asia is located in Almaty. The Office on communications with Government is located in Astana. Since 2014 the Head of the Office is Mr. Bernard Doyle.
Activity of UNHCR is directed on strengthening and preservation of humanitarian space, ensuring the international protection of refugees, including development of long-term decisions for refugees, prevention and reduction of statelessness, assistance in management of the difficult mixed migratory streams on the basis of the international experience and strengthening of potential in emergency response. UNHCR supports programs for self-sufficiency for refugees, such as: self-employment, professional courses, provides access for refugees to the main social benefits and provides financial aid to the most vulnerable families.
Kazakhstan has achieved considerable results in preserving asylum space and protecting the rights of asylum seekers and refugees. The country signed the 1951 Convention and 1967 Protocol relating to the Status of Refugees in 1999. In 2010, a law on Refugees came into force. The law regulates refugee related matters in the country and ensures protection provided by the State. Currently, UNHCR continues to work with different stakeholders on the improvement of the national legislation and its related bylaws through the Inter-Ministerial Working Group and provides sustained support to the Migration Police Committee.
UNHCR also actively promotes accession by the Government of Kazakhstan to the 1954 Convention relating to the Status of Stateless Persons and the 1961 Convention on the Reduction of Statelessness and assists the Government in developing and strengthening legal and administrative frameworks aimed at the identification, registration and protection of stateless persons and the reduction and prevention of statelessness. UNHCR closely cooperates with the Government in emergency preparedness through contingency planning and capacity building activities aimed at improving the disaster response mechanisms.
With mixed migration coming increasingly to the forefront in Central Asia, UNHCR activities in Kazakhstan are aimed at the preservation of asylum space within mixed migratory flows. In March 2011, Almaty hosted the fifth UNHCR Regional Conference on Refugee Protection and International Migration. More than 100 representatives, largely at the Ministerial level, from Kazakhstan, Turkmenistan, Kyrgyzstan, Tajikistan, Afghanistan, Iran, Turkey, Azerbaijan, Russian Federation and the People's Republic of China attended the event. Participating countries adopted the "Almaty Declaration" which will serve as a platform for a regional cooperation framework and action plan.
The UN High Commissioner for Refugees Antonio Gutterish visited Kazakhstan twice: in November 2007 and June 2013. While participating in the work of the 2nd Regional Ministerial Conference on Protection of Refugees and the International Migration on June 4, 2013 the Head of the UNHCR met with the President of Kazakhstan Nursultan Nazarbayev and held bilateral meetings with the Secretary of State and Deputy Chairman of the Senate of the Parliament.
The Conference which took place on June 5, 2013 in Almaty organized by the Ministry of Foreign Affairs of Republic of Kazakhstan with support of the UNHCR and International Organization for Migration (IOM) gained representatives of all Central Asia countries. It summed up the results of two years' work on implementation of solutions of the 1st Conference held in March, 2011 in Almaty at which the Almaty Declaration, which recognized the existence of the complex problems that arise due to the mixed migration flows, and called on States in the region for concerted efforts to regulate these flows.
Following the results of Conference the structure of management of "Almaty Process" was accepted. The mechanism includes the Chairman's post (now - the Vice Minister of Healthcare and Social Development) and also the Support service (Secretariat).