History of UNHCR

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History of UNHCR
©Times of Malta
History of UNHCR



The Office of the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees was established on December 14, 1950 by the United Nations General Assembly to help Europeans displaced by the World War II conflict.

From only 34 staff members when UNHCR was founded, it now has 6,650 national and international members of staff. The agency works in 118 countries, with staff based in 108 main locations such as regional and branch offices and 151 often remote sub-offices and field offices. UNHCR is now dealing with 34.4 million people who fled their country of origin because of persecution and war.

UNHCR is the recipient of the 1954 Nobel Peace Prize for its work in helping the refugees of Europe.


The Republic of Malta is an archipelago situated in the centre of the Mediterranean, 80 km south of Sicily and 284 km east of Tunisia. It is a member of the European Union and the Eurozone.

Malta is a signatory to the 1951 Convention relating to the Status of Refugees and its 1967 Protocol since 1971. It officially lifted its geographical reservation on 13 December 2001.

Malta is not yet a signatory to any of the UN Statelessness Conventions.

The Office of the Refugee Commissioner

The Refugee Act in Malta was approved by the Maltese Parliament on 25 July 2000. The Act entered into force on 1 October 2001 and all connected subsidiary regulations on 26 October 2001. The Refugee Act provided for the establishment of the Office of the Refugee Commissioner and the Refugee Appeals Board.

The Office of the Refugee Commissioner may recommend two types of international protection: (a) Refugee Status and (b) Subsidiary protection. Temporary Humanitarian Protection (a national form of protection) can also be recommended.


Asylum Procedure


A third-country national or a stateless person may approach the Office of the Refugee Commissioner or another authority in Malta, to inform about his/her intention to make an application for international protection.

The Office of the Refugee Commissioner provides information about the asylum procedure to persons who express their intention to make an application for international protection in Malta.  Information is provided with the help of interpreters, in a language which the applicant understands.  Applicants are assisted to lodge the application for international protection by filling up an application form known as a ‘Preliminary Questionnaire’.

Following the lodging of the application for international protection, the Office of the Refugee Commissioner proceeds to assess those applications which according to the Dublin Regulation are the responsibility of Malta.  Those applications, which fall under the criteria of the Dublin Regulation, are referred to the Dublin Unit which determines which Member State is responsible.

The applications for international protection for which Malta is responsible according to the Dublin Regulation, are examined on their merits by the Office of the Refugee Commissioner.  The Office holds at least one personal interview with each applicant.    Interviews are conducted by fully trained caseworkers with the assistance, where necessary, of an interpreter.

The Office of the Refugee Commissioner implements a single asylum procedure.  It first examines whether the applicant fulfils the criteria to be recognised as a refugee according to law. In the case of those who do not meet the criteria to be recognised as refugees, the Office proceeds to examine whether the applicant fulfils the criteria for subsidiary protection according to law.

The applicant is informed in writing about the decision issued by the Office of the Refugee Commissioner.  The reasons in fact and in law are stated in the decision.   In the case of a negative decision, applicants are informed of their right to enter an appeal against this decision to the Refugee Appeals Board.  Information on how to challenge a negative decision is given in writing to those applicants whose application was rejected with regards to refugee status and/or subsidiary protection status.


Further info



The UNHCR Malta office opened in 2005 and falls under the regional office of Rome. The office's first challenge was to meet the high influx of boat arrivals from the Libyan coast heading for the European mainland.

UNHCR also works closely with the Maltese government, social partners and a number of local organizations and NGOs not only to find durable solutions for refugees and beneficiaries of protection in Malta, but also to advocate and work towards improved access to protection and conditions of asylum in Malta; an increased protection-sensitive asylum system and related policies; to strengthen the capacities of government and partner agencies; and to increase general awareness about asylum issues in the country.

UNHCR staff in Malta

After spending the initial years working with just two officials, in 2009 it was agreed to increase its capacity in Malta.

The posts are: administration/ finance, protection, resettlement, durable solution and public information.

A number of consultants are also employed with UNHCR Malta.

UNHCR representative to Malta


Beat Schuler (2016 - )

Jon Hoisaeter (2009 - 2016 )


The UNHCR's first office was in Valletta. It is now located in: 72, Market Street,


UNHCR office can be contacted on +356 2248 9400 or This e-mail address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it .

Any media queries can be directed to This e-mail address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it




UNHCR's overall objective in Malta is to advocate for access to protection on appropriate terms, and promote durable solutions for all persons of concern. Read more


UNHCR is mandated to lead and co-ordinate international action to protect refugees and resolve refugee problems worldwide. Read more




72 Market Street (72, Triq is- Suq)

Floriana FRN 1080


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Tel: +356 2248 9400 

Fax: +356 2122 5550

E-mail: mtava@unhcr.org

Media Queries: Ellul@unhcr.org




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