Summary Record of the Two Hundred And Twenty-ninth Meeting Held at Lake Success, New York on Thursday 12 May 1949 at 8.50 p.m.
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REFUGEES AND DISPLACED PERSONS (Continued):
(a) PROBLEM OF REFUGEES AND DISPLACED PERSONS: ITEM PROPOSED BY POLAND (A/C.3/513);
(b) REPATRIATION, RESETTLEMENT AND IMMIGRATION OF REFUGEES AND DISPLACED PERSONS: REPORT OF THE ECONOMIC AND SOCIAL COUNCIL (A/C.3/375, A/C.3/403 and A/C.3/514).
Mr. JOCKEL (Australia), referring to the statement made by the Polish representative at the preceding meeting, denied the allegation that Australia had discriminated against refugees and displaced persons of Polish origin. It was absurd to state that the Australian government would not allow Poles settling in Australia to be accompanied by their families. Australia had opened her doors wide to refugees; the conditions of admission were defined in the agreement concluded with the International Refugee Organization, and he quoted the relevant passages of that agreement. All the persons resettled in his country were perfectly satisfied with their lot.
He thought that a misunderstanding might have arisen and that the Polish representative might have been referring to isolated cases to which the procedure laid down in the agreement between Australia and the IRO had not been applied. In any case, the charges brought before the Committee were ill-considered and misplaced. If the representative of Poland really wished to improve conditions for persons resettled abroad, he should choose other methods of attaining that purpose. The IRO was the international body competent to consider any complaints of alleged inequality in the treatment of refugees or displaced persons.
Mr. MATES (Yugoslavia) recalled that the problem of refugees and displaced persons, which had been on the agenda of the agenda of the United Nations from the outset, was still unresolved four years after the end of hostilities in Europe.
Resolution 8 (I) of the General Assembly, adopted on 12 February 1946, emphasized that "the main task concerning displaced persons is to encourage and assist in every way possible their early return to their countries of origin". If that resolution, which had been supported by all the delegations at the time, had been implemented by the occupation authorities in Germany, Austria and Italy, the United Nations would not be still dealing with the problem in 1949.
Several million persons had been repatriated in the months immediately following liberation by the Allies, and it was therefore strange that the rate of repatriation operations, instead of increasing concurrently with the control exercised by the occupation authorities, had slowed down to such an extent that it had been necessary at the beginning of 1946 to appeal to the United Nations to attempt a rapid solution of the problem of displaced persons.
The reason for this situation lay in the hostile policy adopted by the American, British and French occupation authorities with regard to the repatriation of persons of eastern European origin.
At the beginning of 1946, the Yugoslav representatives had proposed the establishment of United Nations commission to visit camps for refugees and displaced persons. Yugoslavia had wished the majority of the delegations to see for themselves the state of affaire which had motivated her complaints. That proposal had been rejected. The only possible explanation of the systematic refusal to consider any such proposals was the desire of the occupying Powers to conceal from public opinion and from the United Nations the situation prevailing in the camps, which were the direct result of their attitude towards the repatriation of displaced persons.
This refusal had been maintained in spite of reports, amply substantiated, of the presence in the camps of former collaborators and traitors guilty of innumerable crimes, who were hiding amongst the displaced persons in order to continue the sinister activities interrupted by the defeat of Hitlerite Germany.
In 1946 and 1947 the Yugoslav delegation had submitted to the General Assembly ample proof of the assistance given to those criminals by the occupation authorities, who had instructed them to organize a campaign against repatriation and even to set up military and para-military organization. He did not think it necessary to repeat those statements.
The problem of displaced persons had become a political one. Not only had the occupation authorities refused to implement Resolution 3 (I) of the General Assembly regarding the extradition and punishment of war criminals, and only had they refused to hand over certain notorious collaborators whose extradition had been officially and justifiably requested, but they had also systematically obstructed the work of the Yugoslav liaison officers. He quoted specific cases illustrating the policy pursued in that field by the British authorities, and indeed by the American and French authorities too.
The increasing difficulties placed in the way of the Yugoslav liaison officers came to a climax in February 1948, when they were absolutely debarred from visiting displaced persons' camps in the British occupation zone. Owing to similar measures taken by the United States, by the end of 1948 there were no more Yugoslav services dealing with the interests of Yugoslav displaced persons in the American zone.
The occupation authorities had multiplied the obstacles they were placing in the way of repatriation, in defiance of Resolution 8 (I) of the General Assembly, and the same tendency had been shown during United Nations debates. A new organization, the IRO, had been set up during the second part of the first session of the General Assembly. It was obvious from the start that the delegations of the United States, the United Kingdom and France were not seeking to establish an international body which would facilitate the repatriation of refugees and displaced persons. Moreover, several articles of the IRO constitution had modified the original Assembly resolution to Such an extent that the IRO had become a fresh obstacle to repatriation and had instituted an international traffic and cheap labour.
When the IRO constitution had been adopted, Yugoslavia had stated that she would not take part in that body and had pointed out to the General Assembly that the IRO would not contribute to the just and rapid solution of the problem if it were established under a constitution which conformed with the views of the occupation authorities.
The Yugoslav delegation's opinion had been corroborated by the facts. The IRO had pursued a policy directed against repatriation, while providing shelter for traitors and collaborators. That was hardly surprising, since the IRO had taken over some of the responsibilities of the occupation authorities that had sponsored its establishment.
The main activity of the IRO had consisted, however, in providing cheap labour for certain countries of western Europe and overseas. The report on the progress and prospects of repatriation, resettlement and immigration of refugees and displaced persons (E/816), which contained a study on the work of the IRO Preparatory Commission, shed some light on that alleged resettlement".
Quoting passages from that document, he observed that certain European States choosing persons to be settled in their country took care to exclude either intellectuals or persons accompanied by their families, and that some workers thus "resettled" had preferred to return to their camps in Germany rather than to work in the conditions imposed upon them. The situation with regard to persons sent overseas was even worse, since they were unable even to return to Germany, for lack of money.
Thus, through the agency of an organized band of traitors and criminals and with the complicity of official representatives of the occupation authorities, displaced persons were reduced to a state not far removed from indigence, whether they remained in the camps or were transferred to other countries.
With special reference to Yugoslav nationals, he pointed out that only a very small minority of Yugoslavs had been able to obtain repatriation to their country of origin, due to the devotion and perseverance of a small group of Yugoslav officials, who had had to overcome the obstacles created by the occupation authorities and their hostile attitude, in an atmosphere poisoned by propaganda and slander and by the terrorist regime set up in the camps by criminals and traitors enjoying the support of the authorities.
The Yugoslav delegation had already drawn the attention of members of the Committee to the fact that former collaborators, Nazis and criminals hiding in the camps were hatching plots liable to jeopardize friendly relations between nations and perhaps even international peace and security. It had also pointed out that those activities were being supported by the occupation authorities. In that connexion, he quoted the case of terrorist groups which, after receiving military training in the camps, had penetrated into Yugoslavia in order to foment unrest; needless to say, that plan had failed lamentably and the persons concerned, who had been in Hitler's and Mussolini's service during the war, were arrested by the Yugoslav authorities. Yugoslavia's reiteration of her warning was not motivated by fear of those terrorist plots, which she was well able to cope with, but by her wish to help the United Nations to carry out the task devolving on it in virtue of the Charter.
It was for the current session of the General Assembly to take certain measures indispensable to the rapid and just settlement of the problem of refugees and displaced persons, and thus to serve the cause of international co-operation.
He thought there was still time to correct the mistakes made during previous sessions, and urged representatives to give careful attention to the draft resolution submitted by Poland - which constituted a minimum requirement - and to give it their support.
Mr. AQUINO (Philippines) agreed that it was desirable to give refugees and displaced persons full freedom to decide whether or not they wished to return to their countries of origin. On that point, no delegation could fail to agree with the representative of Poland.
He pointed out, however, that human liberty was an important aspect of the question. As the United Kingdom representative had said, there were cases of persons who had freely chosen to remain in the country which had offered them asylum. That was a sacred right, which was laid down in the Universal Declaration of Human Rights, and which had to be respected. It would be violated by forcing people to return to their countries of origin against their will.
With regard to the draft resolution submitted by Poland (A/C.513), he saw in it a criticism of the labour systems prevailing in certain countries. He thought it was for the IRO to make enquiries if specific charges were brought against countries in connexion with measures of discrimination practised against displaced persons. The charges brought against the IRO were unfounded, since that organization had given proof of its integrity and probity.
He thought that there were three salient points in the Polish draft, after the pure propaganda had been eliminated.
In the first place, in paragraph 3 (a), Poland asked for the guarantee to emigrants of the absolute protection of their economic and social rights, on the basis of complete equality with the citizens of the country of immigration. He observed that the reference here was not only to refugees and displaced persons, but to emigrants in general. He was surprised to find ardent protagonists of national sovereignty thus envisaging the revision of national legislations.
Paragraph 3 (b) of the draft said that the Governments of the countries of origin should have facilities for supervising the practical implementation of agreements with the countries of immigration. That provision was absolutely inacceptable and would constitute flagrant interference in the internal affairs of States.
Lastly, it was proposed in paragraph 3 (c) to provide facilities for immigrants who might subsequently express the wish to return to their own countries, to make the return journey at the expense of the county which received them. He thought that that might in practice result in penalizing the countries offering asylum to emigrants.
At a time when so much was being said about Fascism, he wished to point out the danger of Fascism in a different libery, of a totalitarian ideology which was substantially identical with Fascism and was at work in the modern world.
He asked the members of the Committee to disregard the propaganda contained in the Polish resolution and to consider its real meaning. For moral and legal reasons, the Philippine delegation would vote against the Polish draft resolution.
Mr. PITTALUGA (Uruguay) felt obliged categorically to reject the Polish proposal, in spite of the long speech made by the representative of that country. It was a concrete proposal intended to turn a human problem into a political problem.
He also wished to reply to the violent criticisms levelled at his country. Uruguay was proud of having offered refugees a placed of asylum where there was not even a trace of what the Polish representative had alleged: the refugees had an absolute right to work, no discrimination was made between immigrants and nationals of the country, the scale of salaries was the same and the minimum wage prescribed by the Government was sufficient to satisfy both the material and intellectual needs of foreigners. He also mentioned old age pensions, free education and school books, social services and so forth enjoyed by the refugees on an equal footing with nationals of the country.
He thanked the Philippine representative for his statement of the reasons for which he too would be unable to vote for the Polish proposal.
Rm. VILANOVA (Argentina) also wished to reply to the Policy representative with regard to the question of the Polish nationals settled in his country. He paid a tribute to the thousands of Polish families which were playing an important part in all spheres of life in Argentina.
It had been said that a carpenter earning 500 pesos a month had complained of his lot. That, however, was a diplomat's salary, not to speak of holidays with pay, sick leave, free social services, pension, social insurance and so forth. Either that man had not understood life in Argentina, or he was ungrateful, or he was making a bad joke, and the Committee should not pay attention to anything of the kind.
Mr. GRANDE (Canada) wished to reply to the direct charges brought against his country by the Polish representative at the 228th meeting.
Allegations that refugees and displaced persons resettled in Canada were working in unsatisfactory conditions, receiving less pay than local labour, and generally being exploited by their employers could not be further from the truth. He thought it obvious that the only motive for those statements was to confuse the real issue and to discredit the IRO.
Quoting a passage from a speech made by Mr. Tsarapkin at the 267th meeting of the Economic and Social Council, alleging that refugees uprooted from their native soil and condemned to forced labour in the Americas would remain without any rights, he replied that persons resettled in Canada had come there of their own free will, that their working conditions were the same as those of local labour, that they had the right to leave the country whenever they wished and that they enjoyed all democratic liberties. Those refugees were in a better position than the representatives of Poland and the USSR to say whether they were happy or not. Since April 1947, 64 860 displaced persons had been "uprooted from their native soil" and "forced" to come to Canada.
The Canadian Government believed in the principle that refugees and displaced persons should not be forced to return to their countries of origin against their will. On the other hand, if those persons wished to return, they would receive all the necessary assistance for that purpose. He thought that was the policy pursued by the IRO. No one could be misled by any attempt to discredit that humanitarian organization, which was meeting an urgent need. The real purpose of those attempts was well known, and was contrary to the Purposes and Principles of the United Nations.
He would reply very briefly to the two specific charges brought against his country by the representative of Poland.
With regard to the first charge, he admitted that complaints had been received of the living conditions in a temporary camp in Manitoba used to lodge immigrant labour employed in the beet fields. Although it was proved by investigation that the conditions which gave rise to the complaints were largely due to the negligence of the local workers, that camp had been closed as soon as the investigation had been completed. In that connexion, he pointed out that it was partly due to the free press in Canada that the Government had been informed of the incident. That was an example of the value of absolute freedom of the press.
With regard to the second charge, he was sure that any one visiting the places where the Polish girls mentioned by the Polish representative were working would not receive the horrifying impression that the latter had tried to convey. The matter was now a purely academic one, since 92 of the 100 workers originally employed in the place mentioned had freely volunteered for other work by the end of 1948, although they had been engaged for a longer period; they had not asked to return to Poland.
He did not intend to waste the Committee's precious time by providing statistics and details which had already been given and which were available to every one.
He would vote against the Polish draft resolution, because of the spirit in which it had been submitted.
Mr. DEMTCHENKO (Ukrainian Soviet Socialist Republic) recalled that the question of displaced persons had continually been raised both at sessions of the General Assembly and in the council of Foreign Ministers. It had also been the subject of conversations between the USSR, the United States, the United Kingdom and France.
Those conversations and debates had resulted in decisions and recommendations aiming at the rapid repatriation of displaced persons. It was well known that the USSR Government, for its part, had concluded the repatriation of nationals of other States on 1 January 1946.
That gesture of good will had not been emulated by the other Governments, which from the start had systematically violated all the international agreements and all the decisions of the United Nations on that subject, and had resorted to methods which obstructed repatriation. There were still 70,000 Ukrainian citizens in camps in Western Germany and Austria. There were also in the American and British occupation zones large numbers of Ukrainian orphans or children separated from their families during the war who should be repatriated.
In order to block the repatriation of Soviet citizens, the occupation authorities of the United States, the United Kingdom and France were systematically refusing to allow Soviet repatriation officers to establish contact with their compatriots in the camps. When Soviet missions were admitted to the camps, they found staged conditions or were confronted with manifestations organized by terrorists under the benevolent eye of the occupation authorities.
Moreover, the occupation authorities had placed the 120 camps which contained Ukrainians under the orders of war criminal, traitors and common law criminals who terrorized all those who expressed the desire to return to their homes. He quoted the case of a former SS company commander who had fought in the German Army, and of a former German secret agent who had had Ukrainian citizens shot and hanged and had taken part in the massacres of whole villages. Both those men were in charge of committees in refugee camps. The supreme head of those committees was a war criminal who had killed thousands of Ukrainians with his own hands.
Those committees had at their disposal printing presses and paper for the publication of journals full of slanders against the USSR. Soviet journals did not reach the camps.
The camp authorities were doing their best to disseminate anti-Soviet propaganda, were preventing the entry of any objective information on the Soviet Union and were consistently intimidating those who expressed the wish to return to their homes.
All those activities formed part of a system applied by the occupation authorities of the United States, the United Kingdom and France to prevent the repatriation of Soviet citizens. In the meantime, the displaced persons were living in very hard conditions. Epidemics were breaking out in the camps. It was hoped to force the displaced persons in this way to emigrate to other countries. The camps were being turned into a slave market where representatives of the United States, the United Kingdom, France, Australia and so forth came to recruit cheap labour.
They had the right to organize meetings and to exert all kinds of pressure on displaced persons who were of interest to them, while refusing aged persons, pregnant women and children, whereas representatives of the Soviet Union were usually denied access to the same camps. It was not a question of humanity, but of recruitment similar to that carried on by the Nazis. The idea was to recruit "colonial" labour, devoid of all guarantees and rights.
The International Refugee Organization was co-operating in the recruitment of that slave labour, and was setting itself up as a protector of war criminals and foreign recruiters. During the second half of 1948, the IRO had only been able to repatriate 4,000 persons, whereas it had sent more than 130,000 abroad. There could be no doubt that British and American agents were carrying out the orders of their Governments under cover of the Organization.
The Ukrainian people was concerned about the fate of its compatriots and demanded their return. The Ukrainian delegation hoped that it might rely upon the support of the United Nations to that end, and would vote for the draft resolution submitted by Poland, which it considered to answer to the purpose.
Mr. PEREZ PEROZO (Venezuela) had not intended to take part in the debate, since it was a mere repetition of previous discussions, in which the USSR delegation and the other delegations supporting it had always diverted the problem of refugees and displaced persons from the purely humanitarian plane to that of political propaganda, without hesitating to distort facts whenever that suited them. He could not, however, pass over without protest the charges made by the Polish representative against his own country and other States.
Mr. Altman had quoted information received from individuals, probably inspired by a not altogether unbiassed discontent, and had denounced the living conditions of refugees and displaced persons who had settled in Venezuela.
He would confine himself to mentioning certain facts which could not be doubted, since they appeared in official documents. In accordance with an agreement concluded in February 1947 with the Inter-Governmental Committee on Refugees, the Venezuelan Government had received over 14,000 displaced persons in its territory. In doing so, it had given preference to family groups over unmarried persons, in order to give the immigrants greater stability and in order to conform with the purposes of its own immigration policy, that of strengthening the country's demographic position.
That preference given to families had naturally been a source of additional expense for the Venezuelan Government, since it had undertaken the maintenance of a large proportion of unproductive persons. Those families had been obliged to remain in receiving centres until the breadwinner could find employment which would enable him to support several persons. In spite of those early difficulties, most of the families had succeeded in settling down and their position was improving as they adapted themselves to their surroundings.
The settlement of displaced persons in Venezuela was indeed a complex problem. In order to give an exact picture of their position, it was not enough to quote fragmentary, superficial and probably tendentious information, as the Polish representative had done. The whole question of the adaptation of immigrants had to be taken into consideration, and such adaptation was especially difficult for displaced persons, who represented a special type of immigrant, and a phenomenon resulting from the war.
In the first place, it had to be remembered that in spite of the Government's efforts to inform candidates for immigration of the real living conditions in Venezuela, most of them tended to think that they would disembark in a kind of earthly paradise, rich in oil and exportable currency. Contact with reality would naturally give rise to some disillusionment.
Moreover, Venezuela was suffering from the universal housing shortage, which affected nationals as well as immigrants. It was true that the warmth of the climate rendered that inconvenience less acute than in Central Europe.
Immigrants nearly always succeeded in overcoming their early difficulties and soon began to build their lives anew. Many of them who had asked to leave the country, owing to discouragement when faced with early difficulties, had changed their minds when they received their embarkation notice.
The comparatively long period of adaptation might be explained by the origin of the displaced persons, nearly all of whom came from the countries of Central Europe, where the languages and customs were so different from Venezuela's.
There had been cases, too, in which the desire to leave Europe had caused an immigrant to make a false declaration of profession. He was then unable to satisfy the employer who had engaged him on the basis of the information given, and it would take longer to find him work corresponding to his true qualifications.
According to the Polish representative, immigrants belonging to the liberal professions were only given inferior employment in Venezuela. That country obviously could not be reproached for applying laws such as those governing the medical profession, the purpose of which was to protect the health of the population. In Venezuela, as in Poland, no one could practise medicine until he had obtained a diploma equivalent to his foreign qualification. Once that condition had been fulfilled, the Venezuelan Government did its best to facilitate the foreign practitioner's exercise of his profession. Of course, any one unable to obtain an equivalent diploma, either owing to professional incapacity or because he had failed to apply for it, would have to earn his living in another way.
Engineers were in an enviable position. Some of them received salaries exceeding 700 dollars per month. Skilled industrial workers were employed in the principal factory centres and earned an average monthly wage of 400 dollars. Some craftsmen had succeeded in setting up workshops in the towns or in localities in the interior, where life was cheaper and the housing problem easier. Some agricultural workers had been settled in Government agricultural colonies, where they enjoyed credit and other forms of assistance, and other had been able to rent land which they were cultivating; only a few had not succeeded in finding a stable position and were obliged to work as labourers. The position of the latter group was not good since their wages were definitely inadequate. The Technical Institute of Immigration and Colonization was engaged in obtaining housing and necessary supplies for their families, and was trying to procure them plots of land where they might settle as small-holders.
Such was the true position of displaced persons in Venezuela.
In reply to certain charges brought against his country, he thought it advisable to recall certain significant facts. In August 1947, in connexion with the arrival of a group of Soviet nationals who were coming to Venezuela as immigrants, under the agreement concluded with the Inter-Governmental Committee on Refugees, the USSR Embassy at Caracas had informed the Venezuelan Ministry for foreign Affairs that its Government could neither tolerate that those immigrants should have been chosen without its previous consent nor recognize any agreement on the subject concluded without its approval. The Ministry replied that those persons had been placed under the protection of the Inter-Governmental Committee on Refugees and that they had been sent to Venezuela at their own request, freely and voluntarily expressed. Neither the nature nor the scope of the agreement concerned required the consent of any foreign Government.
The USSR Embassy had then alleged in a second note that the Venezuelan authorities, by "exporting" Soviet Citizens from Europe to Venezuela, had acted in contravention of Resolution 8 (I) and 136 (II) of the General Assembly and of the decision of the Council of Foreign Ministers held at Moscow. The Venezuelan government had replied, in a note dated 31 May 1948, that the use of the work "export" was surprising; that the immigrants concerned had been selected by the Preparatory Commission of the IRO, which constituted sufficient proof that the refugees had requested their transfer to another country; that the conclusion of an immigration agreement was an act subject to Venezuela's sovereignty alone; that Resolution 8 (I), paragraph (c), sub-paragraph (iii) stipulated that the main purpose was to repatriate displaced persons, but that it also wished to refer to sub-paragraph (ii) of the same paragraph, which stated that no refugees or displaced persons should be forced to return to their countries against their will; that Resolution 136 (II) merely confirmed the preceding resolution; that Resolution 62 (I) of the General Assembly, which contained the Constitution of the IRO as an annex, stated in that annex that the term "refugee" was applicable to any person unable or unwilling to claim the protection of his country of origin; and finally that the Moscow Agreement was not binding on any Government which was not a party to it.
This exchange of diplomatic notes showed how certain States, not content with verbal attacks in the United Nations itself on the humanitarian work of the IRO, did not hesitate to exercise direct pressure on smaller countries to make them relinquish their generous attitude towards refugees.
The Venezuelan government did not think it necessary to ask any State's permission to welcome to its territory persons under the protection of the IRO because they had refused to return to their country of origin, in exercise of one of the fundamental human rights, that of choosing where they should live. The selection made by the IRO was sufficient proof that these were voluntary immigrants: in any event it was for that Organization to provide explanations on the subject.
The allegations made against Venezuela could only be prompted by a desire to undermine the prestige of the humanitarian task accomplished by the IRO; to attain that end, certain delegations had not hesitated to make accusations against the countries co-operation in this work and opening their territory to the refugees, giving them a chance to make a home and to work freely in favourable moral and material conditions.
Mr. STEPANENKO (Byelorussian Soviet Socialist Republic) recalled that the USSR Government had, since the end of the war, done everything in its power to repatriate its citizens forcibly deported by Germany by the Fascist slave-traders. Hundreds of thousands of displaced persons had thus returned to their homes and resumed normal life. In the Byelorussian Soviet Socialist Republic, many of them held posts in the Peoples' consuls. Repatriated persons received subsidies from the Government, and despite the destruction wrought by the occupying Power, there were none, thanks to the government's care, who were without shelter or employment. They were all grateful to the USSR Government for having arranged their return.
On the other hand, the government of the Byelorussian Soviet Socialist Republic was anxious about the fate of the thousands of Byelorussian citizens still remaining in the camps, where they were submitted to a process of physical and moral degradation.
He recalled the General Assembly's decisions and those of the Council of Foreign Ministers in 1947, together with the agreements concluded between the Great Powers on the subject of refugees and displaced persons. Nothing, he said, had been done to implement those decisions. On the contrary, the United States and the United Kingdom had systematically obstructed the work of officials of the USSR, and had taken measures which had entirely stopped repatriation.
He mentioned cases where representatives of the USSR had been refused access to the camps. He added that when these representatives succeeded in entering the camps, they met with demonstrations organized in advance by terrorists and former collaborators who, with the blessing of the occupation authorities, prevented all contact between the representatives of the USSR and the displaced persons. On the occasion of one of these incidents, terrorists had gone so far as to set fire to the car of a USSR mission without any interference on the part of the camp authorities. In March 1948, the American occupation authorities had carried out a police raid on a USSR repatriation mission.
All these facts clearly showed that, far from collaborating in the work of repatriation, the authorities of the United States, the United Kingdom and France were doing all they could to oppose it. They were organizing anti-Soviet propaganda which resorted to the basest calumnies, were authorizing the setting up of committees directed by former Nazi agents, were prohibiting the entry of Soviet newspapers and were forcing displaced persons to read news-sheets published by traitors. All letters going out from the camps were censored, and those arriving from the USSR were not delivered to the addressees. Refugees had been sentenced to imprisonment for openly expressing the desire to return to their homes.
He quoted the evidence of witnesses to the effect that the displaced persons' camps were in no way different from the Nazi concentration camps. Hygienic conditions were deplorable, the food bad and epidemics were always breaking out, as appeared from document E/816.
Meanwhile, 200 foreign representatives desirous of recruiting workers on behalf of Canada, Argentina, Brazil, France and other countries were allowed to set up recruiting offices in these camps. The help given to refugees was thus becoming a labour market for the benefit of capitalist countries.
The workers thus recruited were employed on the most arduous types of work, notable in the mines. They were given low wages and separated from their families.
This attitude of the United States, the United Kingdom and France was in flagrant contradiction with the agreements concluded between those Powers and the USSR, and also with the decisions of the General Assembly. The problem was an urgent one, as the repatriation of all refugees and displaced persons must be completed in 1949. This repatriation would only be possible if the persons concerned were allowed absolute freedom of choice, that is if anti-Soviet propaganda, the activity of Fascist organizations and recruitment for military and para-military bodies were prohibited, if recruiters were denied access to the camps and if the representatives of the countries of origin of the displaced persons were admitted.
As the Polish proposal met these requirements, the Byelorussian SSR would vote for it.
Mr. AZKOUL (Lebanon) wished to draw the Committee's attention to the fact the IRO had been established primarily to deal with refugees and displaced persons who had become such owing to the Second World War. It seemed to him that the United Nations should be equally, if not more, concerned with the problem of the Arab refugees from Palestine, whose situation was a direct result of one of its own decisions.
The IRO, by supporting a policy of clearing out a whole area, thereby creating displaced persons, in order to settle other persons there, was partly responsible for the fate of the Arab refugees from Palestine.
The IRO was not free to decide at will whether persons should or should not be resettled. The repatriation of displaced persons was the IRO's chief task, and it could not resettle refugees except in the case of persons with "valid objections" to returning to their country of origin. He quoted a paragraph of Annex I of the Constitution of the IRO which stated: "The following shall be considered as valid objections: (i) persecution because of race, religion, nationality or political opinions ...; (ii) objections of a political nature judged by the Organization to be valid ...".
He was well aware that certain categories of refugees now entering Palestine fulfilled these two requirements. On the other hand there was one kind which did not fulfil them. Since Nazism in its organized form had been stamped out, and a large number of these persons were in sympathy with the views of the Governments of their countries of origin, these refugees could invoke neither fear of persecution nor objections of a political nature. There was nothing to justify the IRO in working for the resettlement of people who were thus taking the place of other persons who had become refugees, and whose situation was much worse.
In this connexion he quoted a passage from the Report on the Progress and Prospect of Repatriation Resettlement and Immigration of Refugees and Displaced Persons (E/816), which read: "The procedure followed by PCIRO for arriving at a conclusion as to 'valid reasons' may be thought somewhat routine, but on the other hand, the interpretation of 'valid reasons' given in the Definitions is very wide and not very precise".
In conclusion, he expressed the wish that the United Nations would pay due attention to this aspect of the question. In his opinion, the Third Committee should express its regret that the IRO should have any part in action which amounted to the settlement in Palestine of persons who were not displaced persons, and thereby increasing the number of refugees.
Mrs. ROOSEVELT (United States of America) thought it should not be necessary to continue this discussion. The question seemed to have been fully covered, and those who sincerely wished to help refugees and displaced persons had no use for arguments and repetitions of accusations which were already well known; they did not want to use the distress of those people for propaganda purposes.
The draft resolution submitted by Poland only reproduced the terms of previous proposals which had been rejected. She thought that this draft deserved the same fate as its predecessors. As regards the next item on the agenda, she suggested that the Committee confine itself to taking note of the reports of the Secretary-General and of the IRO. She saw no objection. However, to the Committee's voting on the draft resolution submitted by Brazil, the Netherlands, the United Kingdom and the United States (A/C.403).
Mr. TSARAPKIN (Union of Soviet Socialist Republics), seconded by Mr. DEMTCHENKO (Ukrainian Soviet Socialist Republic), proposed that the debate should be adjourned until the following day.
The CHAIRMAN put the motion for adjournment to the vote.
The motion was rejected by 22 votes to 6, with 7 abstentions.
Mr. TSARAPKIN (Union of Soviet Socialist Republics) emphasized that for four years the problem of repatriation of refugees and displaced persons had remained unsettled and that many of them, torn from their native land by the Nazi occupation forces, had been unable to return home.
This was not due, however, to any failure to draw the attention of the United Nations to their pitiful fate, and the melancholy existence which most of them were dragging out in camps in the Western Occupation Zones in Germany and Austria. The USSR, anxious over the fate of her citizens, had many times asked that the artificial obstacles placed in the way of repatriation by the three occupying Powers of the Western Zone should be removed. To this end, she had made representations to the General Assembly and directly to the Governments concerned.
The General Assembly had adopted two resolutions on the subject: Resolution 8 (I), which stated that the main task concerning displaced persons was repatriation, and Resolution 136 (II) which re-affirmed that no obstacles should be placed in the way of this task.
As regards the three States concerned, a decision had been reached at the Council of Foreign Ministers in Moscow of 23 April 1947, under which the occupying Powers undertook amongst other things to prohibit all propaganda against repatriation and any hostile activity against any of the Allied Powers both in the camps and at the collecting centres, to facilitate the admission into these camps and to these centres of representatives of the countries of origin, to allow these representatives to make contact with displaced persons and to give the latter every assistance of which they might stand in need with a view to their repatriation, and lastly to authorize the distribution of newspapers, periodicals and pamphlets from the countries of origin.
Neither the General Assembly's resolutions nor the Moscow decision had been respected by occupying authorities in Western Germany and Austria. Nearly 400.000 Soviet citizens had not yet been repatriated, amongst them a large number of children who were either orphans or separated from their parents. The Soviet citizens were making efforts to return to their country, but, in violation of the international obligations which they had undertaken, the occupying Powers were denying them this legitimate right.
The United Kingdom representative had tried to convince the Committee that the USSR alone was responsible for this situation; he had stressed the fact that all the displaced persons from Western Europe had already returned to their respective countries and that the problem no longer affected and but the citizens of Eastern European countries. He had alleged that the United Kingdom would be happy to see them return to their homes, but that they themselves refused to be repatriated, because those who had returned had painted a very unattractive picture of what was happening behind the so-called "iron curtain". Thus the flow of repatriated persons had ceased. The truth of the mater was that repatriation had been entirely broken off owing to the action of the three Governments concerned in the Western Occupation Zones. They had allowed slanderous propaganda against repatriation to be carried on freely in the camps, and they had also allowed punitive measures to be taken against persons desirous of returning to their country of origin.
To put a stop to false rumours, the USSR would have liked some light to be thrown on living conditions within her frontiers. She had proposed at the eighth session of the Economic and Social Council that an international investigation should be conducted by a qualified commission, including trade union representatives of all shades of opinion and from the majority of countries, into living conditions both in the capitalist States and in the peoples' democracies. The United States and United Kingdom delegations had opposed this, and a docile majority had rejected this proposal, which would have given short shrift to the lying fables now current on living conditions inside the USSR.
Neither these calumnies, nor the irony with which its protests had been greeted, would prevent the USSR delegation from continuing to raise its voice in defence of its citizens, until the latter had been restored to their country.
The true causes of the stoppage of repatriation were brought out by a certain number of statements and letters which the USSR representative had in his record, and which all showed that efforts were being made to deter Soviet citizens from returning to their homes by fear of what awaited them in the USSR, by threats and even by intimidation. One of them had even been hit on the head with an axe because he had insisted that he wished to be repatriated. Their only hope was to escape from the camp by night and then they must be careful not to fall into the hands of the police, as had happened to two of them who had been sentenced to six months' imprisonment. All this was evidence of the atmosphere of hostility against the USSR and the peoples' democracies prevailing in these camps.
In the Occupation Zones what amounted to a positive sabotage of repatriation was going on, which was hardly surprising since this activity was largely directed by war criminals or traitors who should be extradited under the 1947 decision, but who were finding in the camps not only asylum and impunity, but a field of activity to exercise their hatred against the USSR. It was they who were terrorizing Soviet citizens and who were even "liquidating" any who did not obey their will.
Of course the occupying authorities were well aware of what was going on; they were doing nothing to prevent it; on the contrary, they were encouraging it. In violation of the decision of 23 April 1947, they were refusing access to the camps to officers of the Soviet repatriation mission. Any excuse was good enough for the purpose: either the liaison officer was not there, or there were fears for the safety of members of the mission, because in certain cases they had been insulted and attacked, their reception having been carefully staged, as might be guessed, by the camp authorities. More than once the missions had met with a categorical refusal to allow them to visit camps. The Soviet mission at Frankfurt-am-Main had been suppressed on 1 March 1949 after a unilateral violation of the agreement on repatriation between the USSR and the USA.
The cause of this attitude was easy to guess. The members of the mission would evidently be inconvenient witnesses of the arbitrary and brutal acts of which the Soviet citizens in these camps were the victims. Moreover, it was not desired that they should be able to provide the displaced persons with impartial information on their country of origin, which the latter could no longer obtain through the press, since the introduction, sale and distribution of newspapers, periodicals and books from the East were expressly prohibited. On the other hand, the camps had been deluged with newspapers and lampoons preaching hatred against the USSR and frequently was against that country.
Anything was possible when former Nazi collaborators and war criminals who had borne arms against the USSR and her allies laid down the law in the camps. Men were recruited there for military or paramilitary organizations and for so-called security detachment; thousands of Soviet citizens had been recruited for the French Foreign Legion and had been sent to fight against the liberators of Indo-China; spies were even recruited there for the intelligence services of certain countries. All this went on with the blessing of the occupying authorities, although their essential duty was to promote the repatriation of all displaced persons.
The appearance on the scene of the IRO had only made matters worse, since from the outset that Organization had adopted a policy tending to substitute for repatriation the resettlement of displaced persons in other countries, on the pretext that those remaining in the camps did not wish to return home. No proof was offered of this purely gratuitous statement, which would not for a moment deceive anyone who was aware of what was going on in these camps.
Four years after the end of the war, the plight of these poor people, who had been dragged into slavery under the threat of Fascist sub-machineguns, was still tragic; they could not return to their homes; their fate was to provide cheap labour for the countries who were vying with one another to acquire them. Thus more than 130.000 displaced persons had already been distributed amongst a number of countries. A kind of labour market had been established where some twenty countries maintained representatives for the purpose of recruiting good, strong, muscular workers. They were told to expect good wages and favourable conditions. In any case, how could they refuse, since they were placed in a situation which had no other issue. In practice they were employed on the heaviest least skilled and worst paid work. The IRO presided over this market, and had been reduced to a mere employment agency, acting in the interests of the capitalists, whose only idea was to obtain the labour that they needed at the lowest price, even when this meant separating the wife from the husband and the parents from their children. Australia wanted 200,000 agricultural or domestic workers; the United States was going to raise the immigration quota for displaced persons from 205,000 to 400,000. Thousands of Soviet citizens had already been deported to the United States, the United Kingdom, Belgium, Canada, Brazil and Venezuela. The letters they wrote and the information obtainable on their working and living conditions showed that they were employed on the most arduous work in mines, forests and plantations. Complaints came in from all sides: in the Belgian mines they were forced to work until they were completely exhausted and were treated without consideration, having no right to any accident insurance; in the United Kingdom the wages and food rations were insufficient to allow the immigrant to eat his fill. In Canada the position was far from being as favourable as the representative of that country had made out. most of the displaced persons there were working on farms in very arduous conditions; husband and wife were frequently working for different employers. Cases had been reported where the working day was 21 hours. Further, the wages paid to displaced persons were lower than normal wages, in some cases only half as much and occasionally even less. A spokesman of the Canadian Ministry of Agriculture had state officially that immigration was necessary to carry out work in the fields and forests which the local population refused to do. An Ottawa newspaper had said that an immigrant did more work for the same wage than a Canadian worker: a statement which revealed how the displaced persons were exploited in that country.
The same thing was happening in other countries. Everywhere an effort was made to get as much as possible out of them as if they were nothing but slaves. Naturally the slightest attempt at protest was severely suppressed, and it was legitimate to ask what had become of that freedom of expression upon which the Western democracies prided themselves so much.
No humanitarian principles inspired the work of the IRO. It was merely a profit-making concern for the capitalists of the beneficiary States. But it was not only the IRO and the three Powers which were responsible. He thought that the reputation of the United Nations itself might be injured if such activities were to continue without its making an attempt to stop them.
There was one intolerable situation in particular which should be remedied at once: that of the children separated from their families or orphans who were vainly awaiting repatriation. There, too, the officers of the Soviet mission had encountered ill-will on the part of the occupying authorities even when they had only asked for information concerning the children without parents. Most of them were in the orphanages of the IRO where they were brought up in the German fashion by a staff conspicuously hostile to the USSR. Some of them had been entrusted directly to German families; others had been sent to Canada or the United States. The latter case apparently concerned 67 girls and boys between the ages of 7 and 14 years, from the Baltic countries. By what right were they sent to America instead of the their countries of origin? It was certainly not because they refused to be repatriated from aversion to the Soviet régime.
The most elementary humanity and justice required that displaced children should be returned to their parents or next of kin, if any, or at least to their country of origin. The USSR Government would take care of the Soviet children, for it could not allow them to be brought up to despise their country, and later to become cheap labour to be exploited by the capitalists.
The USSR would continue to protest unremittingly until she succeeded in having all her citizens returned, in order that they might resume the constructive work interrupted by the invasion.
It was not surprising that this attitude should be displeasing to the United States and United Kingdom. Their policy as regards repatriation was in truth no more than the logical consequence of their general policy towards the USSR and the peoples' democracies. Just as they opposed the sending of Marshall Plan goods to Eastern Europe, under the pretext that this would increase its war potential, for the same motive they interrupted the repatriation of people to these countries. This reason was at the root of their decision, and it explained what was happening in the camps and the substitution of resettlement repatriation. The result was that hundreds of thousands of poor people were scattered throughout the world and were working for their exploiters, bent double in the mines or scorched by the tropical sun, after being sold into slavery.
Such a situation must not continue: it was too far contrary to the principles of humanity and to human rights. All the work of repatriation had to be finished in 1949. It was necessary to establish conditions favourable to repatriation, after all the obstacles intentionally placed in its way had been removed. Any recruitment of displaced persons for military or para-military organizations should cease immediately, and the representatives of the countries of origin should have the right freely to visit the camps.
It was for the United Nations to ensure as rapidly as possible the implementation of its previous decision on repatriation. In this connexion, the Polish draft resolution laid down the minimum steps which must be taken at once to allow hundreds of thousands of the victims of Fascist barbarism to resume in their own countries a normal life free from any mercantile exploitation. This solution would make it possible to remove at last from the General Assembly's agenda a problem which had
Mr. ALTMAN (Poland) regretted that the United Kingdom representative in his reply had thought fit to take liberties incompatible with parliamentary usage, instead of confining himself to the facts and figures quoted by the Polish delegation. These figures had been deliberately drawn from statistics provided by sources hostile to repatriation, in order that them might be no question of their value. Thus they could not be contradicted any more than the facts themselves.
Poland was asking for the loyal implementation of the General Assembly's resolutions, in order that the refugees and displaced persons country of origin. S regards those who had chosen to emigrate, the legal protection of the Government of origin should follow them to guard admitted wherever there were immigrant workers.
He appealed to the feelings of the members of the Committee and asked them to not forget that the problem upon which they were to give decision was not an abstract question, but concerned human beings, particularly Polish children, who were languishing in Germany and whose tragic position was well known.
Mr. BAGDADI (Egypt) wished to explain the way in which he was going to vote. He was certainly interested in the humanitarian aspect of the problem, but he pointed out that the United Nations had already reached Polish representative on the need for a frank and loyal attitude towards the problems, but considered that the great principles governing the question of refugees, particularly the right of voluntary repatriation, should be respected within the framework of the decisions already adopted. Hence the Egyptian delegation would abstain from voting on the substance of the Polish draft resolution, whilst urging that the United Nations, in a spirit of goodwill, should apply its previous decisions which in the delegation's opinion were quite adequate.
Mr. TSARAPKIN (Union of Soviet Socialist Republics) asked for a divided vote. Although he was in favour of the draft resolution submitted by Poland he wished to abstain from voting on paragraph 3, which he did not consider necessary.
The CHAIRMAN said that he would ask for a vote first on paragraph 3, and then on the remainder of the text.
Paragraph 3 of the Polish draft resolution was rejected by 20 votes to 3 with 12 abstentions.
The CHAIRMAN put the rest of the text to the vote. At the request of Mr. ALTMAN (Poland) the vote was taken by roll-call.
The roll-call began with Turkey, whose name was drawn by the Chairman.
In favour: Byelorussian Soviet Socialist Republic, Czechoslovakia, Poland, Ukrainian Soviet Socialist Republic, Union of Soviet Socialist Republics, Yugoslavia.
Against: Australia, Belgium, Canada, Chile, Costa, Rica, Denmark, France, Honduras, Netherlands, New Zealand, Norway, Philippines, Sweden, Turkey, Union of South Africa, United Kingdom, United States of America, Uruguay, Venezuela.
Abstentions: Argentina, Burma, China, Egypt, Ethiopia, India, Liberia, Mexico, Pakistan, Saudi Arabia, Syria.
The Polish draft resolution (A/C.3/513), excluding paragraph 3, was rejected by 19 votes to 6 with 11 abstentions.
The CHAIRMAN then called for a discussion on the draft resolution submitted by Brazil, Netherlands, the United Kingdom and the United States of America (A/C.3/403).
Mr. JOCKEL (Australia) recalled that Mrs. Roosevelt had admitted that the text was a little out of date.
Mr. Roosevelt suggested a simple statement to the effect that the General Assembly had taken note of the Secretary-General's report, prepared in consultation with the IRO, on the repatriation, resettlement and immigration of refugees and displaced persons.
Mr. CORLEY SMITH (United Kingdom) seconded this proposal. While awaiting distribution of the new text prepared by the Chairman, the latter called for a discussion on the Uruguayan draft (A/C.3/514).
Mr. PITTALUGA (Uruguay) agreed to withdraw paragraphs 2 and 3 of his text, but insisted that a vote should be taken on paragraph 1.
The CHAIRMAN pointed out that this paragraph involved the amendment of a text already adopted by the General Assembly. This was an unusual procedure. He suggested to the Uruguayan representative, who agreed, that the wish expressed by the Uruguayan delegation should be noted in the records, accompanied by the statement that it was merely the point of view of that delegation. The Uruguayan delegation thought that in paragraph (c), sub-paragraph (ii) of the General Assembly's Resolution of 12 February 1946 the words: "no refugees or displaced persons who have finally and definitely, in complete freedom, and after receiving full knowledge of the facts including adequate information from the Governments of their countries of origin, expressed valid objections to returning to their countries of origin and who do not come within the provisions of paragraph (d) below, shall be compelled to return to their country of origin, "should be replaced by the following words: "no refugees or displaced persons who have freely expressed their desire not be repatriated shall be compelled to return to their country of origin."
DISCRIMINATIONS PRACTISED BY CERTAIN STATES AGAINST IMMIGRANT LABOUR AND IN PARTICULAR AGAINST LABOUR RECRUITED FROM THE RANKS OF REFUGEES:
The CHAIRMAN having opened the procedural debate on item 4 on the agenda, Mr. ALTMAN (Poland) said he was willing to withdraw his proposal if the Committee agreed that it should be placed on the agenda for the next session.
The CHAIRMAN pointed out that it was the General Assembly which had referred this item to the Committee, and only the Assembly could withdraw it. At the same time, there was no reason why the Polish delegation should not ask that this item should be placed on the provisional agenda for the next session.
The Chairman accordingly proposed a formula whereby the General Assembly, having regard to the statement made by the Polish representative to the effect that he would like examination of the item submitted by his delegation to be adjourned to the fourth session, decided to take this item off the agenda.
This proposal was unanimously approved.
The CHAIRMAN called for a discussion of document A/C.3/518, which replaced document A/C.3/403, and which read as follows:
"THE GENERAL ASSEMBLY
TAKES NOTE of the report of the Secretary-General and of the report of the international Refugee Organization on the repatriation, resettlement and immigration of refugees and displaced persons."
Mr. CORLEY SMITH (United Kingdom) having asked how the IRO's report would be brought to the General Assembly's notice, the CHAIRMAN explained that as the IRO made an annual report to the Economic and Social Council, the latter would include the information supplied in its annual report to the General Assembly. The question would thus be automatically referred to the General Assembly.
Mr. PEREZ PEROZO (Venezuela), suggested that, for the sake of precision, the symbol numbers of the documents concerned, E/816 and A/C.3/375, should be inserted in the text.
It was so decided.
The CHAIRMAN put document A/C.3/518, as amended, to the vote.
The draft resolution was adopted by 27 votes to 5, with one abstention.
Mrs. ROOSEVELT (United States) thanked the Chairman, the Rapporteur and the Secretariat for their work during the second session, and particularly the Chairman for the amiability and tact with which he had conducted discussions often of a delicate nature.
The CHAIRMAN said that the Committee had covered the whole of its agenda. He thanked the members for their patience and the spirit of co-operation which they had shown, and the Assistant Secretary-General in charge of the Department of Social Affairs for his collaboration with the Committee during this particularly busy session.
He particularly congratulated the Secretary of the Committee, the interpreters, the précis - writers and other members of the Secretariat whose hard work had seen them through all their difficulties.
Finally, he thanked the three successive Vice-Chairman, in the person of Mr. Noriega, and Mr. Saint Lot, the Rapporteur, for their collaboration.
The meeting rose at 2.10 a.m.