Statement of Dr. Auguste R. Lindt, United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees, to the Ad Hoc Committee of the Whole Assembly, 27 October 1958
The authority conferred upon me to appeal for funds for my programmes constitutes one of my heaviest responsibilities, and I therefore welcome this opportunity of addressing the ad hoc Committee of the entire Assembly.
I will limit my remarks to a statement of the present position of the refugee programmes, their purposes and their financial requirements.
Four years ago, the General Assembly authorized the High Commissioner to undertake the United Nations Refugee Program for a four-year period 1955-1958. The financial target for governmental contributions was subsequently set at $16 million.
Today, I am able to report to you that governmental contributions since 1955 total approximately $14,500,000, which means a shortfall of $1.5 million. During the same period, 46,000 refugees have benefited substantially from the UNREF programme, quite apart from the considerable number of persons who have received emergency assistance. The UNERF programme is still being implemented and these figures do not represent the ultimate results. Nor do they take into account the entirely separate operations in respect of special refugee problems, such as that of the new Hungarians.
The further significance of the UNREF programme is that by stimulating the efforts of governments and voluntary agencies and the initiative of some of the refugees, it has reduced the camp population to "manageable" proportions.
In my approach to the numerous refugee problems with which my Office is faced, I have endeavoured to establish a distinction between those relatively stabilized problems and other more dynamic problems. In the first case - and this includes the camp population and the Far Eastern operation - the extent of the problem is known and it is, therefore, possible to set a deadline for its solution. In the other case, which includes the out-of-camp population, new refugees in Greece and the individual cases for which I am endeavouring to achieve permanent solutions as defined in Article 1 of the Statute of my Office, a more flexible approach has to be maintained and it is not possible to set a deadline. In all cases it is my standing policy to consider as the determining factor for permanent solutions the freely expressed wishes of the refugees.
With regard to the camp problem, and excluding the Hungarians for whom there is a separate programme and certain other groups of refugees who are eligible for aid from other sources, I estimate that by the end of this year there will remain in the camps only some 14,000 refugees to be assisted by my Office. The majority of these refugees have been in camps more than ten years: 25 per cent of their number are children under the age of 14. It is gratifying that, while certain camps may remain as transit centres, it is at last possible to see an early end to the camps as places of permanent residence for refugees.
I advised the General Assembly last year that I would require $4.8 million plus a sum equal to the deficit on the UNREF camp clearance projects to carry out the intensified camp clearance programme. As UNREF is short of $900,000 in this respect, I shall need a total of $5.7 million to complete camp clearance by the end of 1960. Of this sum, $3.3 million is required in 1959 and $2.4 million in 1960.
The survey undertaken for my Office last year revealed that, in addition to the camp population, there were some 120,000 non-settled refugees living outside camps in various European countries. This number has not changed to any considerable extent since the survey was made. Moreover, one of its most disturbing aspects is that it includes some 32,500 refugees in households affected by physical, social or economic handicaps.
Although the emphasis of my programme is directed toward the camp population, it is nevertheless essential to continue to assist the large group of non-settled refugees living outside camps. Unless more funds are provided, this will necessarily be no more than a minimum programme to meet some of the most pressing needs during the next two years.
Another problem for which the end may be in sight concerns the group of refugees of European origin on the mainland of China, whose numbers have now been reduced to some 10,000. It is planned to complete this Far Eastern operation, which my Office carries out jointly with the Intergovernmental Committee for European Migration, over the three-year period 1959-1961. My estimated expenditure in 1959 is largely in respect of care and maintenance of refugees while in transit in Hong Kong pending resettlement overseas. However, the care and maintenance costs borne by my Office represent only a part of the operation, the success of which also depends upon adequate contributions to ICEM in respect of transportation for this group of refugees.
Other programmes for 1959 cover new refugees in Greece, legal assistance for refugees, and aid for individual cases. Their total amount is $2.7 million.
The UNREF Executive Committee, on the assumption that $3.7 million might be provided by governmental contributions and $1 million received from private sources, recommended an amount of $4.7 million for the 1959 programmes. However, it recognized that, it resources to a level of $6 million could be made available, it would be possible to meet additional pressing needs of refugees.
I should mention here, with regard to the responses to my appeals for voluntary contributions, that arrangements can be made whereby, if governments select certain programmes as of more interest to them than others, their contributions may be devoted solely to those stipulated programmes.
A vital aspect of the programmes of my Office is the need for continuity in their planning and implementation. This implies that funds should be available ahead of time, for it still takes a year to draw up plans and build a house for a family of refugees, and it is very difficult to negotiate with governments for supporting contributions to my projects when I can so rarely be sure of the funds that will be available to me.
Today, I would therefore like to stress not only my present needs for the 1959 programmes ($6 million, including $3.3 million for camp clearance), but also that it would be of great assistance to me if governments would, in addition to indicating their preparedness to contribute to the 1959 programme, give some indication regarding their intentions in respect of the $2.4 million which I shall need for camp clearance in 1960.