Statement by Dr. Gerrit Jan van Heuven Goedhart, United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees, to the Third Committee of the United Nations General Assembly, 4 October 1955
HC Statements, 4 October 1955
I would like, before presenting my annual report to this Committee, to avail myself of this opportunity of doing in public what I have already done in private, that is to present to you my congratulations on the occasion of your election as Chairman of this important Committee, and I would also like to express my gratitude to you and through you for the accommodation which the Third Committee has made in connection with my presence in New York. I certainly do not claim to have any right to any particular priority, but I do feel that it is in the interests of the programme that this item can be dealt with at this early stage.
Mr. Chairman, it is about a fortnight ago that I had, the privilege of presenting for the first time two Nansen Medals. The Medal for 1954 to Mrs. Eleanor Roosevelt and the Medal for 1955 to Her Majesty Queen Juliana of the Netherlands. I am not going at this stage into the details of the Nansen Medal and its purpose, I would like to draw attention to the fact that with your kind permission, Mr. President, the Nansen Medal is here on display for those members of this Committee who would like to have a look at it, and if they do also they will see that the Nansen Medal bears an inscription which reads, translated into English: "Love of man is practical policy". We have felt, Mr. President, that that was a very appropriate inscription on a medal in commemoration of a man who did more than any other individual in the field of refugees, that it was appropriate also for the two recipients of that medal who both of them have proved that they make one of the principles of their life that love of man is practical policy; and we finally felt that those words were also appropriate for our own political and humanitarian approach. In fact, Mr. President, we never have, we never had and we do not want to have any influence on the decision of any man to constitute himself as a refugee. Neither do we want to have any influence on the decision which that man will then have to take about the solution of his problem as a refugee. There are as the members of this Committee know very well, three different possible solutions. One is the decision to go back, the repatriation. Two is the resettlement in another country and three is the integration into the economy of the country where the refugee has found asylum.
The first solution – repatriation – can nearly always be easily realized. It only requires the cooperation of the government of the country to which the refugee wants to return. The resettlement solution, Mr. President, has become increasingly difficult and I will have to come back to that later in this intervention; and therefore for many refugees who do not wish to go back to their countries of origin and who cannot avail themselves of the solution of resettlement, integration in the country of their residence is the only possible solution. But from our point of view what counts and what is our guide is the freely expressed desire of the refugee for whatever solution he may have in mind and we can only feel sorry, Mr. President, in those cases where we cannot give the refugee what he wants, where we are unable to fulfil his desire. The difficulties which we meet are, however, of a practical nature and do not in any way affect the principle which is that it is the refugee himself who has to decide; and when I look back upon the action which the United Nations has taken over the ten years which have gone by it is quite clear that that has always been consistently the principle which has guided the United Nations in its action. The upshot of that action is then that repatriation must be voluntary and so must integration and. resettlement. The refugee is then limited only by the fact that he only has the choice of three and also by the fact that for practical reasons his most desired solution cannot always be realized and that he has of course to find some solution to his problem. Looking back for one more second upon those ten years, Mr. President, I would like to note that millions and millions more refugees have been repatriated in the course of those ten years than ever have been resettled or integrated.
The principle that the refugee is to be free in his decision also is reflected in my present Statute, and as I have done in previous years, Mr. President, I would like to state again that I have never put any obstacle in the way of any refugee who wanted to go back to his country and that I never shall do that. That is, however, not to say that I can do much in the field of repatriation of refugees because I am of course guided by the principles in my Statute, and that Statute in Article 8 calls upon me to assist governmental and private efforts to promote voluntary repatriation but says at the same time in Article 9 that I shall engage in such additional activities, including repatriation and resettlement, as the General Assembly may determine. However, in that regard the General Assembly has not determined anything. Never has any action under Article 9 been taken, which means that I am confined to the task of assisting governmental and private efforts in the field of voluntary repatriation. At the same time, Mr. President, I am called upon to protect the refugees. What in the field of repatriation is protection of refugees? I suggest that it is to see to it that the choice of the refugee is really a free choice, and I think that in that regard there could be more cooperation between the governments interested in repatriation and my Office.
I am glad, Mr. Chairman, to report to this Committee that that cooperation has at least to some extent developed over the last few months, after I submitted to the Economic and Social Council my report, which by the way I always have to write in March of a year which mans that by the time it reaches this Committee it can only be compared to a piece of pretty stale bread, and I am happy therefore to be able to add a few crisp croissants to it in this session. The little development of great importance which has occurred in this field came about when in July of this year my Office was given an opportunity by the Government of the Union of Soviet Socialist Republics to accompany a mission which visited the camps in Austria. I have therefore been able to ascertain that the interviews which took place with those refugees who had expressed the desire to meet that mission were held in a completely fair manner, that no pressure was brought to bear on any refugee and. that therefore all these activities came clearly within the scope of a really voluntary repatriation and I shall be glad, Mr. President, to make the same services available to any government which would like to engage in activities in the field of repatriation. In fact I hope that the signs which have come about in the course of the last few months may be taken as an indication that we are on the way towards a better understanding, and I shall gladly elaborate on this matter if any delegate would wish me to do so.
Mr. President, having completed my studies at a University in the Netherlands, I am bound to feel the need of looking back for a few seconds at the end of a five-year period. Students always celebrate five-year periods and this year it is five years ago that this Committee decided to establish my Office. I look back for a few seconds with no other purpose than to make looking forward a little bit more easy. I look back on the first of January 1951 when I arrived at Geneva and found there two bare rooms, and think with some satisfaction of the fact that to-day we have a Headquarters office there plus 13 Branch Offices in various places on the globe, plus 3 Sub-Offices, with a total personnel, Headquarters, Branch Offices and Sub-offices all included, of 107 people. I think back on the scattered out-dated and incomplete conventions on the status of particular groups of refugees which existed in 1950 and with great satisfaction I am now aware of the existence of the Convention 1951 which has been ratified by no less than 15 States, is in full operation and covers already hundreds of thousands of refugees under the mandate of my Office. I think back on the text of my Statute which in itself did not make possible any activity of a kind of material aid to any refugee or to the solution of the problem of any refugee, and it is with great satisfaction again that I state now that there has been a United Nations Refugee Emergency Fund transformed a year ago into the United Nations Refugee Fund, a fund which is now financing to the extent of its possibilities a four-year programme for permanent solutions of the problem of refugees, a programme which is in full operation and to which I shall come back later.
All this, Mr. President, I would like to emphasize it, is for nobody a reason for boasting or for much satisfaction. I shall later on have to speak about some shortcomings and about some failures. But I would like, Mr. Chairman, for the record to state that I am very much aware of the development which has taken place in the thinking and in the actions of this Committee which from the outset has been the parent body of my Office and which has given so much attention to the problem of which I am in charge. Five years ago there was, I think, practically only one traditional approach to the solution of the problem of refugees. It was that any refugee who did not want to go back to his country of origin had to be resettled in an overseas immigration country. I must say in honesty, Mr. Chairman, and in fairness to myself that I at an early stage have had very serious doubts as to the possibility of realising that solution for every refugee in that category. Were there really opportunities for resettlement overseas for all the refugees or would it be necessary to look for other possibilities apart from repatriation and overseas resettlement? Would it not be so that integration of many refugees in the countries of their present asylum would have to be the solution in very many cases? And if so would such a solution be possible? I recall with deep gratitude the generous grant of the Ford Foundation totalling two million nine hundred dollars which has made it possible for my Office to establish that it was possible to work on integration on a large scale and which was the first step towards the programme which now is in operation. It is quite interesting, Chairman, to recall that in 1952 this Third Committee of the General Assembly did the first step towards recognition of what I think was a new situation and of course everyone is always somewhat reluctant to admit that a pattern which has become traditional has to be abandoned to some extent and that new ways have to be found. The wording of the resolution which the General Assembly adopted in 1952, I think, explains what I have in mind. "Considering," that is what your Committee said, "that the voluntary repatriation or the resettlement in countries of immigration, while constituting valuable elements for the solution of the refugee problem, are not sufficient in themselves under the present conditions to offer within a reasonable time a permanent solution of that problem, noting with satisfaction," the Committee went on, "the efforts made by the governments of the countries of present residence of refugees towards their assimilation, considering that, in view of the heavy financial burdens involved in the execution of integration programmes, international funds may play a useful role in the successful execution of long-term projects, invites the High Commissioner, in consultation with the International Bank for Reconstruction and Development to examine the situation with a view to exploring, with the governments concerned, what sources of funds might be available and. the most effective means by which such funds might be utilised."
Mr. Chairman, it is quite clear that the Assembly began to recognize the principle of integration, but that at the same time it felt reluctant to embark on any venture in the field of the creation of a new fund, and that the Assembly hoped that the International Bank would be able to perform the magic trick. I think with gratitude and great satisfaction of the conversations which I myself and. thereafter one of my ablest officers had with Mr. Eugene Black and his staff. The answer to the question put in the resolution 4 was simple. "No." I am not going into the details but we had to register the fact that the International Bank was in no position to either provide funds or point a way to a possibility of finding them. The Assembly, reviewing the situation in 1953, prolonged the mandate for five years and said that I should now try to concern myself particularly with three groups of refugees: those in need of emergency aid, those still living in camps and those who come in the category of the difficult cases with an unsolved problem. It was on the basis of that resolution, Mr. Chairman, that my colleagues and I prepared the four-year plan, and it was one year later, that is, last year, 1954, that the Assembly drew the consequences of its resolution of 1953. Your Committee last year took the decisive step and approved that four-year programme, thereby initiating a completely new action on behalf of refugees. The Advisory Committee which had been instituted under the Statute became an Executive Committee, the first Plan of Operations was approved in May of this year and the target for governmental contributions was determined at the amount of 4.2 million dollars for the Year 1955. I said all that, Mr. Chairman, with a view to extending my sincere gratitude to the Third Committee of the Assembly of the United Nations for action which I think was appropriate and important at the same time. The road certainly has not been an even and an easy one and we are certainly not nearly at the end, but at least there is now a completely clear structure and a well defined task. I am in charge now of the protection of refugees in the sense of the Statute and in addition in charge of the realization of a four-year programme. Four years, of which one nearly has now elapsed.
I shall, Mr. Chairman, after this backward look, have to deal with some particular problems in two fields, in the field of protection, and in the field of the present new programme. I would like to deal first of all with some of the outstanding protection problems. Once a refugee has decided that he wants to take refuge in another country, he faces two particular problems: one comes under the heading of asylum, one comes under the heading of his status. I am not going into any consideration of the right of asylum, Mr. President, I think that I can confine myself to expressing the hope that those who concern themselves with conventions on Human Rights and in particular the governments themselves, will have present in their minds the vital importance of the right of asylum in the work of drafting they undertake.
The right of asylum is of course closely connected with the more practical issue with which I have to deal quite a bit. It is the issue of the eligibility of a refugee. I am glad, Mr. Chairman, that I could report that in Belgium, France, Luxembourg, Germany and Italy we have been able to work out quite satisfactory arrangements for working together with the Governments concerned in the field of eligibility of refugees. I have to add only that as far as Italy is concerned there has been a further development in that field after I had written this report, which was that the Italian Government has decided to organise a reception centre in the Northern part of the country and that there is a small committee residing there, at Udine, – I have had the opportunity of visiting it a couple of months ago, – a small committee on which my Office is represented. The screening of refugees with a view to determining their eligibility is in the first instance done by that committee. I am less optimistic as regards Austria, where so far it has not been possible to work out a satisfactory agreement with the Government concerned for matters of eligibility. I am, however, continuing my negotiations and conversations with the Austrian Government, and am hopeful that at some point, may it not be in a too distant future. I will be able to reach a satisfactory agreement.
It is clear, Mr. Chairman, that any refugee who is declared eligible has all the rights – and of course all the duties – of the 1951 Convention in those countries which have ratified that Convention. In my report I have mentioned 14 ratifications and I am of course extremely gratified that I can report to the Assembly that there are now 15 ratifications, as the Government of Ecuador has recently deposited with the Secretary-General its instrument of ratification. I have immediately expressed my gratitude to the Minister for Foreign Affairs of Ecuador for the action which has been taken, and I would like to restate that gratitude here. Mr. Chairman, Ecuador is in fact the first Latin American country which has seen its way to ratify this highly important Convention. Meanwhile the Government of Chile has submitted the Convention to the consideration of the Senate Committee of Foreign Affairs, and I can only hope that the Government of Chile, as well, will see its way to complete the ratification of the Convention. Unusual or uncustomary as it may be, Mr. Chairman, I think that nobody in this room will make me any reproach if in this connection I state how grateful I am to have in the Latin American area the services of Ambassador Gonzalez Fernandez who is my representative in Latin America with residence in Bogota, and who certainly, through his most excellent relationships with all the Governments in that area, is of the greatest value to me in my contacts with all those important countries.
Mr. Chairman, when I insist on the importance of ratifications of the Convention I do so particularly because of the fact that once the refugee finds himself in a country which is a signatory to the Convention, he has a right to obtain what for him is of so much importance, that is, a travel document. The situation regarding travel documents, Mr. Chairman, is not too unsatisfactory. Even in countries which have not seen their way to ratify the Convention, in many cases the travel document of that Convention is recognized, either generally or in particular cases or for particular categories. I am glad, for instance, to be able to report to this Committee that three more Governments in Latin America have now given a recognition of a general character to travel documents issued by signatories to the 1951 Convention. They are Venezuela and Guatemala and, last but certainly not least, Mr. President, the country from which came the Vice-President of this Committee, the Dominican Republic. And in mentioning the Dominican Republic I would like, Mr. Chairman, to add that I am very much aware of many other services which the Government of that country has rendered to the cause for which we stand, and I would like to avail myself of this opportunity, not only to congratulate the representative of the Dominican Republic on her election as Vice-Chairman of this Committee, but also to ask her to convey to her Government my gratitude for what that Government is doing.
There is one particular category of refugees for whom a travel document is of the greatest importance. They are the so-called refugee seamen. The refugee seaman has become a phenomenon in the refugee field which is at the same time persistent and tragic. We do not know exactly how many there are, but there is reason to believe that the total number is in excess of one thousand. They are mostly people without adequate papers and the survey to which I have made reference in paragraph 95 through 97 of my present report has revealed that in many cases these refugees have the great difficulty of not being able to go ashore anywhere in the world. I have, Mr. President, recently, and I apologise for making some propaganda for my own product, I have recently written an article in the Journal of the International Labour Office which appeared a couple of weeks ago, in which I have tried to explain the whole problem in about 15 pages for those who are interested in it, and much as I would like to refer to that documentation for those who are interested in the problem, I would in addition like to report to this Committee that the Government of the Netherlands have taken the initiative to call a small conference of experts of about seven countries, a conference which will come together in a couple of weeks from now and which will then consider possibilities of finding an overall solution for the problem of providing the refugee seaman with adequate papers, thereby making it no longer necessary for him to live aboard ship without the possibility of putting two feet on God's earth.
Mr. President, recent changes in the status of the Federal Republic of Germany and of Austria have caused a great deal of nervousness amongst refugees under my mandate. The fact that those changes were brought about made many refugees afraid that this might lead to making their status less certain and therefore they were nervous about what was going to happen. When I was in Austria a couple of months ago I discussed the whole issue thoroughly with the Chancellor of Austria, the Foreign Minister and the Minister of the Interior and on the basis of those conversations I have issued in printed form a declaration over my own signature in which I have stated to be sure that the Government of Austria would remain faithful to the principles and the text of the Convention to which it is a signatory and that the right of asylum of refugees in Austria would be fully respected. I have seen with satisfaction that the German Government has issued a declaration of a similar nature a couple of days ago in connection with some nervousness which had arisen amongst refugees on the territory of the Federal Republic. I have received in the original language the text of that declaration and I would have nothing to add to or to deduct from that declaration if I were called upon to draft it myself.
Mr. President, the situation in Trieste has developed pretty satisfactorily over the last eight months. Having been in Rome, I think about two months ago, I have taken the opportunity of discussing the Trieste situation thoroughly both with the authorities there, and thereafter with the Italian Commissioner in Trieste, Mr. Palamara. I am glad to state that the bad camp of San Sabba which still is in operation today will, I have every reason to believe, be emptied by the beginning of 1956, that is about 4-5 months from today, and that those refugees who by that time will not yet have found an opportunity of resettlement elsewhere will be transferred to one of two much better camps which I have visited on the occasion of my trip to Italy, either in Capua or in Aversa, and that also the excellent vocational training school which is run at Trieste at the present time by the World Council of Churches will be transferred to the place where most of the refugees will be transferred to themselves.
Finally under the heading of protection, Mr. Chairman, I would like to report that the printed report of the mission which I sent to Hong-Kong with a view to investigating the situation of Chinese refugees in Hong-Kong has now appeared. The report, which has been printed on a commercial basis, is available and I would like to pay tribute not only to Dr. Edvard Hambro and to Mr. Jaeger of my own Office who was attached to the mission, for what I think is an excellent and scientific survey of a very complicated and difficult refugee situation, but I would also like to include in that expression of gratitude the Ford Foundation which, through a grant of fifty thousand dollars, has made the survey possible, as well as the Governor General of Hong-Kong, Sir Alexander Grantham and his staff for an indispensable and invaluable assistance which they have given to the mission.
These, Mr. Chairman, were the points which I had to touch upon in connection with the protection, and I come finally to a few remarks about the new programme which now is in operation. Efficient execution of any programme, Mr. Chairman, requires proper coordination between that programme and any similar programme, and I am very glad that I can report now to this Committee that whereas that coordination did not always exist to the full extent between my Office and the United States Escapee Programme, that now that situation has been completely changed; that I now can say with much emphasis that there are no difficulties of whatever kind in the cooperation between the two programmes and that I even have high hopes that the new instructions which are now in operation will make possible a very constructive cooperation between the two programmes for their respective refugees. However, Mr. Chairman. I am, when it comes to the interests of refugees, somewhat of a perfectionist. Therefore I do not say that I am entirely satisfied with everything in the field of coordination. I think, Mr. Chairman, that it is always a bad thing when one has to register the fact that, being called upon to execute a certain task, money for exactly that task is being given to another organization which is not in charge of that task, and I am therefore sorry to have to do what I did in the Economic and Social Council, that is to go on record for expressing my unhappiness at the fact that at some stage money for solving on a permanent basis difficult cases which all come for one hundred per cent within the scope of my programme, was made available to the Intergovernmental Committee for European Migration which is not called upon to perform any such task. I hope that that will not happen again, much as I want to add that the relationships between the Intergovernmental Committee for European Migration and my Office are, and I am not in the habit of making loose statements of that kind, excellent relationships, that we work together very closely, but that does not prevent me from feeling that everyone should confine himself to the task which constitutionally he has to perform.
The situation in the field of coordination, Mr. Chairman, will become very much more difficult if within six weeks from now the Council of Europe would decide to establish a new fund as proposed by Mr. Pierre Schneiter, the Special Representative for Over-Population and Refugees, that is national refugees coming within the scope of the Council of Europe. The suggestion is that a ten million dollar loan fund be set up to help countries which are suffering from a serious over-population problem. Mr. President, within a few minutes I shall say a few unpleasant words about my own target. At this stage I would like to point out that it is more and more the habit of treasuries to make available to Foreign Offices a lump sum which those Foreign Offices then have to slice up and divide over the various programmes which in one way or another they want to support, and that when new funds come into existence those treasuries are on the whole not in the habit of adding to the lump sum but in the habit of suggesting to the Foreign Offices that the slices then have to become thinner. I am therefore very much afraid, Mr. Chairman, that the coming into existence of a new fund of ten million dollars will make it much more difficult for any existing fund to make its target and I also suggest, Mr. Chairman, that behind this may, at least partly, inasmuch as refugees are concerned, be a pretty serious misunderstanding, the misunderstanding being that one cannot possibly separate from each other over-population and. refugees, as refugees are considered by every government of any country where they are as belonging first and foremost to the over-population. It is therefore not easy to separate the two categories; that is a pretty artificial operation, and I have always had the feeling that it would be better to solve problems one after the other than trying to solve them all at the same time, which might lead us to solving not even one of them. However, if such a fund comes into operation, Mr. Chairman, then of course I can only hope that there will be attached to its operation some form of coordination committee of which I am afraid my Office will then have to be a member. When I say I am afraid, I am not at all personal, Mr. Chairman; my personal relationships with both Mr. Schneiter and Mr. Léon Marchal, the Secretary-General of the Council of Europe, are even of a more than friendly character: I am afraid only because I am already a member of far too many bodies.
The new programme which we are now executing, Mr. Chairman, is designed for special categories of refugees, and the first priority is for refugees now still living in camps. I think that the number of those refugees was five years ago somewhere round 125,000; it is today still roughly 70,000. Therefore the decrease has been somewhere in the bracket of 55,000 which, although it is a decrease, is by no means enough of a decrease. Emphasis on the camps means of course, Mr. Chairman, at least to my interpretation, that there should be some other category than the camp refugees which may qualify for this programme. If 100% of any fund is diverted to only one purpose, then of course there is no emphasis. Emphasis can only exist through contrast, and therefore there must be another category which can be compared to the category of the refugees in camps. I think, Mr. Chairman, that I have made considerable headway with regard to establishing the criteria which will have to govern the categories of refugees qualifying for this programme during the last session of the Standing Sub-Committee of my Executive Committee which was held in September, that is now about three to four weeks ago.
My idea was, Mr. Chairman, to pay attention to certain groups of refugees, in particular in France and in Belgium. France, Mr. Chairman, is a country which has never believed in refugee camps and I certainly do not want to blame France for having taken that view. On the contrary. France, in its own zone in Germany, has refused to put the refugees in camps. It has always given preference to the solution of putting the refugees into some private lodgings. Should the refugees and should France be punished for having that view? I do not think so, Mr. Chairman, and I have suggested that a very limited sum under the Plan of Operations 1956 be diverted to France and to Belgium, which has no camps either, and the conclusion to which my Standing Sub-Committee came was that I should proceed with the preparation of projects for France and Belgium, it being understood that approval of any such projects rested with the Executive Committee. But, and here comes the definition, that in so doing I should bear in mind the main purpose of the programme and should confine myself to projects for the benefit of refugees who, although they do not belong to the category of refugees at present still living in camps, or to the category of difficult cases are, owing to their living conditions or their disabilities, unfit for normal integration. In suggesting myself some wording of that kind, Mr. Chairman, I particularly had in mind the war-cripples of, for instance, the Spanish Civil War, of which still some three thousand are living in France, which up to now has only to a very minor extent been able to do much about their rehabilitation and their resettlement.
The character of the programme, Mr. Chairman, is a mutual undertaking, that is what your Committee last year has explicitly wanted. A mutual undertaking between the governments of the countries of residence on the one hand and my Office on the other. It is as if the Third Committee said to the countries of residence of refugees: "if you make an effort to solve the refugee problem, we will make available sixteen million dollars in four years time; and at the end of that four-year period what there is left in the way of unsolved problems of refugees within the scope of that programme must be your responsibility". If that is the right interpretation, and I think it cannot be put in doubt, then Mr. Chairman, the availability of the sixteen millions for four years, that is, of any determined target for any given year within the four, clearly is one of the conditions of the mutual undertaking, and if we do not make the target for any given year then the consequences are extremely serious. The target for 1955, the current year therefore, was determined by the Advisory Committee at the request of the Assembly and was set at 4.2 million dollars. The target for next year is going to be 4.4 million dollars. If I do not make that target, Mr. Chairman, I am immediately in grave difficulties with regard to my negotiations with the governments of the countries of residence. It is difficult, of course, to ask those governments to make commitments to projects which I would like to see executed if at the same time I cannot commit myself because I have not received the funds which had to be available under the target, and many times this leads us to the loss of very real opportunities. If I may give one example, in Austria you often find in the budget of one of the Land governments money which is available to execute housing programmes. That money has been made available under the budget for the fiscal year of that Government. If I cannot within that fiscal year make available my own contribution, it may well be – and it has in fact happened – that when thereafter I dispose of the money, the government concerned lets me know that it does so no longer and that it has diverted that money or that the money not having been used in the fiscal year cannot, may not even, be used in the next fiscal year.
Not making the target, Mr. Chairman, also means that we will have to add to the target for 1956 the unimplemented part of the target 1955. This makes the task of the Negotiating Committee for Extra-Budgetary Funds only more difficult. If that Committee has not been able to raise 4.2 millions in 1955, will it be more able to raise some 6.5 millions in 1956? And perhaps some 8 millions in 1957? And if that Committee fails, Mr. Chairman, what is the consequence? I am afraid the consequence can only be that the United Nations will have to state that they were unable to do what they wanted to do under Resolution 832 of the 9th Session, and that it is therefore hard on the governments of the countries of residence to see that at the end of that period they would nonetheless be stranded with what there would be at that time in the field of unsolved problems. And finally, if I do not make the target I lose money which is otherwise available.
I am extremely grateful, Mr. Chairman, that in the course of 10/55 the United States have taken the decision of giving financial support to my present programme. Extremely grateful, because I have always been aware of the fact that without United States support I would not be able to do what I feel is absolutely necessary. However, the United States, in pledging its contribution, has at the same time decided that it should be made available on a matching basis, which means that to the extent to which the other part of the contribution in excess of the 1.2 million dollars pledge of the United States will not be made, I lose part of the $1.200.000 United States contribution. The United States is not the only country having made a pledge on a matching basis, the United Kingdom have at least up to one fifth of their contribution done the same thing. The United Kingdom, and again I express publicly and gladly my great appreciation of that action, has made available a sum of 100,000 pounds sterling of which 80,000 pounds are payable immediately, but 20,000 pounds only if the other countries would make available 3.2 millions.
The real situation as regards the target is highly unsatisfactory, Mr. Chairman. I have recently attended a meeting of the Negotiating Committee for Extra-Budgetary Funds and I certainly have never any feeling of envying my colleagues. I am extremely glad to see that any colleague in charge of any programme makes his targets. I would only like to make it myself. UNICEF for the current year had 17.5 million dollars in mind – and gets 17.5 million dollars. UNRWA, the programme for the refugees from Palestine, had in mind a target of 24 million dollars for care and maintenance. It has made up to now 98.3% of its target and is therefore only short of 0,7%. I have a target of 4.2 million dollars. Today I can report that I have made just 50%, that is practically 2 million dollars of the 4.2. There I am, Mr. Chairman, and if I can only make 50% of my target, I can only help 50% of the refugees who were envisaged for 1955 for help. I can only execute 50% of the projects which were in the Plan of Operations for 1955.
"Today I can report that I have made just 50% [of my target]. There I am, Mr. Chairman, and if I can only make 50% of my target, I can only help 50% of the refugees who were envisaged for 1955 for help"
Fortunately, for the current year the situation is less black than it otherwise would have been, thanks to the fact that this year I benefit greatly from a Dutch national campaign, a campaign for voluntary contributions of a non-governmental character which has yielded not less than one million dollars. That means that if I put all the bits and pieces together I may be able for the current year to execute somewhat like 70-75% or even 80% of the projects within the Plan of Operations 1955, but not thanks to the governments which brought together 2 millions, but in addition thanks to voluntary contributions, which made up for at least part of the gap. What in 1956 will be the situation, Mr. Chairman, I do not know. It is clear that there will be no such campaign, although the Netherlands are starting all over again, but there will be no such heartening result as there has been in the current year. And at the same time, Mr. Chairman, let me say that with the greatest possible emphasis, the time to do this job is now. It may no longer be the time two or three years from now, it is now. It is now, because there is now, at the present time, a certain amount, sometimes even a great amount, of prosperity in the countries where the integration of refugees has to be realized, and if we do not avail ourselves of the opportunities which are presented by the present situation, we may when it is too late come to the conclusion that we have missed the boat.
The figures in the Plan of Operations 1955 of course lay the emphasis on integration of refugees. Integration which as I have tried to explain when I looked back upon the last five years has become one of the most necessary solutions of the problems of refugees. It is not because I favour that solution particularly, it is not because I overlook that the refugees who do not want to be repatriated nearly all of them want to go overseas, it is only on realistic grounds that I have to take that approach. The openings for refugees in overseas countries are everywhere limited. Limited in particular as regards the kind of refugees which is admissible and the requirements which they have to fulfil. Just a few days ago, Mr. Chairman, and I am of course sorry about it, we got the news that Brazil had decided for the time being to stop the admission of refugees from China. I say for the time being, Mr. Chairman, only because I am so much aware of the generosity of Brazil and therefore just am not ready to believe that this would be the last word. I would like in this Committee to pay tribute to a country which has received more refugees from China than I think all other countries put together, and which in the admission of other refugees has always been extremely generous. And sure as I am that the Government of Brazil has valid reasons for its present decision, I do hope that it will be possible with the authorities of Brazil to have a further word about that decision and that I then may rely on a traditional generosity which has always prompted the actions of the Government of that country.
"The openings for refugees in overseas countries are everywhere limited."
Mr. Chairman, there is another element in the migration field which is worth being noted. It is that, much as it is difficult – and increasingly difficult – to find openings in overseas countries, there are increasing possibilities in Europe at the present time. We have seen in the last year some small but highly interesting schemes being set on foot by European governments in addition to the already existing 2000 Scheme of the United Kingdom, schemes which solve the problem of perhaps 800-1,000 refugees, but which in view of the aim of the present programme – which is to empty the camps first and foremost – are of great importance. In particular the Netherlands and Sweden have embarked on such schemes, and knowing the interest of the Committee in the migration field, I would like to emphasise that I think that Sweden deserves a high tribute for having made what I think is the only efficient approach to the solution of how to make a migration scheme work.
The Swedish Government, Mr. Chairman, decided to send to Austria a mission to select refugees. Up to that point it did not deviate from the procedure which is normal. The difference is that that mission was given plenipotentiary powers. The mission was enabled and authorized to decide on who was going to Sweden and who not, right on the spot immediately, without delay, without dossiers being sent to Sweden from Austria and from Sweden back to Austria. The three people of whom the mission consisted were perfectly empowered to make the decision right on the spot. And see what happened, Mr. Chairman: six weeks after the arrival of the mission, the first group of refugees boarded a train to Malmoe and arrived two days later in Sweden, six weeks after the mission had started. That gave the refugees the conviction that here really something was happening. That was quite different from what they had seen so many times: promises, half-promises, sending dossiers back and forth, examination, cross examination, re-examination, and what not, and finally after a year or so the bad news that the man had not been selected. Here the people went, and I hope that that method by which Sweden has selected about 700 people in I think about three weeks, that that method will be followed by many other countries.
Mr. Chairman, when we execute projects under our Plan of Operations for any year, we do it through the intermediary of voluntary agencies, and I suggest that it is no longer necessary for me to pay any extensive tribute to those agencies for the cooperation which they always show. They have always shouldered more of the burden than was reasonable, and international authority has many times relied to too great an extent on what agencies were really able to carry in the way of a burden in the refugee field. But never have the agencies failed to stand ready to continue with the job, and I would certainly not know how to execute any programme, being non-operational myself, if I could not rely continuously on the wholehearted support of agencies of many descriptions which really do so much in this field and were already in existence long before my Office.
I list only as a matter of information finally what are at present the projects in execution. Our Shanghai operation continues entirely. All our emergency aid projects in Italy, Greece, Turkey, Egypt, the Jordan, the Lebanon and in Syria continue. Our vocational training project in Germany continues. We have started work on seven important housing projects in Austria, we have started our selection project in Greece, we have started our pension scheme for old and sick refugees in Italy, we have started the building of a new wing at a hospital in Thalham in Austria, as well as the building of extensions to two old people's homes, one in Solbad Hall and one in Vienna, both in Austria, we have completed about seven minor difficult cases projects, and we are at the present time involved in negotiations about 71 agreements on already approved projects. Of those, 29 have been signed by both parties, that is by my Office and by the agency concerned, 7 in addition have been signed by my Office and not yet by the agency, which makes the total then 36 of 71. For the rest we are in negotiations with the agencies, it being understood that an agreement has to cover literally the last detail of any project which we want to operate. Many times we have to make eight drafts one after another of one and the same agreement, and my staff is often quite overburdened with all the work which is involved in that programme. It has become my habit, Mr. President, but not a habit which I can perform easily, to pay tribute in this Committee to my colleagues. If I do it, Mr. Chairman, I do it will all my heart, because I have a staff as no one else in the United Nations could possibly have.
Mr. Chairman, what is the conclusion of all this? It seems to be that the target 1955 must be made and at the same tine I just do not quite see how the Negotiating Committee will be able to find within the few months still left in 1955 the approximately two millions which still are lacking. There will be a new Dutch campaign launched at the end of October. This time it will be under a slogan for which I think we have to thank a refugee in Greece. The refugee in Greece when asked what was his wish, what did he want more than anything else, gave in reply: "give me a key to a door". I think, Mr. Chairman, that it is a beautiful idea of the Dutch committee to launch a campaign for refugees under the slogan "give me a key to a door". It seems, Mr. Chairman, that my job could even be defined as trying to find a key for every refugee and that you cannot arrive at that goal without opening the doors of treasuries and Foreign Offices. However, Mr. Chairman, even if I were to open all the doors of all the treasuries and. all the Foreign Offices, I still would have a job left. This programme can only be carried out if you can open the doors to the hearts of many millions of individuals throughout the world. Then it can be done because, technically it is not an impossible job; it only needs the means, the tools to do the job. And once you reach, Mr. Chairman, after having opened the door to the human heart, the little corner where you find the love of man which, as Nansen said, is practical policy, you find response and the job can be done.
"A refugee in Greece when asked what was his wish, what did he want more than anything else, gave in reply: 'give me a key to a door'."
I hope, Mr. Chairman, that I will be forgiven for an enormously long intervention, I have only once a year the opportunity of presenting my programme to the Committee under the orders of which I do my work, and I hope, Mr. Chairman, that the discussion of this Committee will contribute to shortening the time of the waiting people who are the refugees, because they have already waited far too long. Thank you, Mr. Chairman.
 The International Labour Review, Aug. – Sept. 1955