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Speech by Dr. Auguste R. Lindt, United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees, at the opening of the Fourth Session of the United Nations Refugee Fund (UNREF) Executive Committee, 1957

Speeches and statements

Speech by Dr. Auguste R. Lindt, United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees, at the opening of the Fourth Session of the United Nations Refugee Fund (UNREF) Executive Committee, 1957

1 January 1957
New HC expresses admiration for work of his predecessorHungarian exodus, burdens on countries of first asylum (Austria, Yugoslavia)Answer to this emergency is emigrationAnother emergency arising: refugees from EgyptProposes the establishment of an emergency fundAssurance that emergencies are not hampering the work of the main programmeWhich is however a year behind because of a shortfall in contributionsBut Sweden has just donated generously, so the programme should get back on track

Mr. President,

I should first of all like to congratulate you on your election and say how very glad I am to be able to collaborate with you, Mr. Chairman. I should like to thank very much the representative of the Secretary-General for what he has said, and in my relatively short existence in this new incarnation I had already occasion to call for help from the European Office of the UN and already now I should like to thank for all the help I have received and I am sure will still receive and I am, as far as I am concerned, definitely sure that the excellent relations inside this building will continue and develop.

The more I get now acquainted with the work of this Office the more I am struck by one fact. The plans which have been developed, the legal protection done for the refugees, the assistance given to them carry the imprint of a very eminent personality. And the more I had occasion to study, for the preparation of this meeting, the documents prepared, the higher my admiration was for the man who had the imagination and the persistence and the wish to carry through what is starting now to become an extraordinarily important work. I speak of programme of UNREF. And I must say that just when I see now that this UNREF programme is starting to have very encouraging results, then I always have a bad conscience to be here instead of Dr. van Heuven Goedhart to see those results. I am also very conscious that at this moment the work of the office of the HC has been widened by emergencies. I do not need to mention the out flow of Hungarian refugees into neighbouring countries. We have now in Austria a total of 169,000 refugees who have arrived in Austria from Hungary, we have as to yesterday 12,900 refugees from Hungary who have arrived in Yugoslavia. And as you know the United Nations helped with the assistance side of this refugee problem and have given certain tasks to my Office. And I just would like to stress that when at the beginning we had as country of first asylum only Austria, we have now the second problem developing in second country of asylum, Yugoslavia. But with that we shall deal at a later stage. I just would like to say that the policy of this Office is at the moment concerning the Hungarian refugees to do in close cooperation with ICEM, everything possible to stimulate emigration, so that the burden on the country of first asylum is lightened and the best way, the quickest way to do that, is emigration. I have not to stress that emigration of course can only concern those refugees who want to emigrate, and it is a very important part of my functions to see that the refugees have, as far as possible, exercised without any pressure from one side or another, their free will.

There is already now another emergency problem arising. Refugees from Egypt. And there is no doubt in my mind that those of those refugee who are not able or not willing to avail themselves of the protection of the Government of their nationality - they might have no nationality or they may have lost this nationality, or, for reasons of persecution may not be willing to avail themselves of this protection - fall under the mandate of the High Commissioner. And therefore already now I am, and I am ready to exercise the legal and diplomatic functions of my Office in their favour, I am following with concern the development of this question and it is partly because of those various emergency situations which we can see developing before us that I propose in the Budget the creation of an emergency fund. I think the amount proposed can perhaps be criticized as being too small with relation to the potentiality of the present situation. Though my Office, all my colleagues and most of our Branch Offices are at present struggling with the other work created by the emergency situations, I should like to give you the assurance that this Office is doing everything possible, that the emergency questions do not hinder work on UNREF. UNREF is now technically half-way through its proposed existence, but as a matter of fact the UNREF programme is one year behind, practically, and that was due to a great extent to the lateness of contributions being paid in. We have this year a different and a more favourable situation thanks to the special contribution of the Swedish Government, to the amount - to the very high amount, for which I am thankful - of 7 million Kroners. Therefore, this Office is able to put before you when we come to that in the agenda, projects which can be implemented as rapidly as possible, and there I should draw special attention to the housing projects, which usually take a considerable time to get prepared and I hope very much that you can accept the priority which we tried to assign those housing projects. This year the money is there to start working. This Swedish contribution makes somewhat out of date and somewhat diluvian the shortfall paper which we have prepared and you will see in the recommendations of the programme Committee, or the Programme Sub-Committee, that this shortfall paper, the paper which indicates how far contributions fell short of the target, should be revised. And the Programme Committee report also mentions that the High Commissioner should be asked to tie in with that a re-appraisal of the programme of UNREF in the light of experience gained and also in the light of the impact of the emergency situations of last year and of this year. You will see, when we come to that, that in the last year, thanks to the UNREF programme, 6,000 refugees could be resettled, and what is especially encouraging is that the results in the last few months, which will be described in the addendum, are progressively higher than the results of the first other months of the year, and I think we shall not be disappointed to find that the progressiveness in results will continue.

As far as the Shanghai operation is concerned, I am glad to report that refugees are still leaving China and there is even some expectation that this rate may increase in the near future, which might of course claim a considerable amount of financial assistance from this Office. I hope that this Office will always keep in mind that we must not forget all the unsolved problems of the difficult cases, which are a special feature of the UNREF programme, and I should like to appeal here to the Governments who are here represented to follow the very generous example of those Governments who have accepted hard cases in their territory. If that example could be followed, we could make headway quicker than up to now in dealing with those very worthy cases because they are human cases.

If I might just go quickly through the agenda, I have mentioned en passant the problems we are dealing with, I should still like to mention the question of the Chinese refugees in Hong-Kong, a very important problem, involving about 630,000 people. I might perhaps think that this question might be dealt with by the Executive Committee, if you would agree, Mr. Chairman, in its capacity as Advisory Committee, though of course it might be quite likely that all the other questions in the agenda could also be dealt with by the Committee in this latter capacity.

Mr. Chairman, I should like to thank you for having allowed me to make those rather short, and I am quite aware, sketchy introductory remarks.