Ad Hoc Committee on Refugees and Stateless Persons, Second Session: Summary Record of the Thirty-Ninth Meeting Held at the Palais des Nations, Geneva, on Monday, 21 August 1950, at 3 p.m.
Chairman: Mr. LARSEN (Denmark)
Rapporteur: Mr. WINTER (Canada)
Belgium Mr. HERMENT
Brazil Mr. PENTEADO
China Mr. CHA
France Mr. JUVIGNY
Israel Mr. ROBINSON
Turkey Mr. NURELGIN
United Kingdom of Great Britain and Northern Ireland Sir Leslie BRASS
United States of America Mr. HENKIN
Venezuela Mr. PEREZ PEROZO
Italy Mr. MALFATTI
Switzerland Mr. SCHÜRCH
Representatives of specialized agencies:
International Labour Organisation Mr. OBLATH
International Refugee Organization Mr. WEIS, Mr. KULIMAN
Representatives of non-governmental organizations:
Category B and Register
Consultative Council of Jewish Organizations Mr. KARLIKOW
International Co-operative Women's Guild Miss ROSSIER
Liaison Committee of Women's International Organizations Miss ROSSIER
Women's International League for Peace and Freedom Mrs. BAER
World Jewish Congress Mr. BIENENFELD, Mr. LIBAN
Mr. Humphrey Director, Division of Human Rights
Mr. Giraud Legal Department
Mr. Hogan Secretary to the Committee
Proposed draft Convention relating to the Status of Refugees (E/1618, E/1618/Corr.1, E/1703/Add.7, E/1818, E/AC.32/2, E/AC.32/6, E/AC.32/6/Corr.1, E/AC.32/7, E/AC.32/L.3, E/AC.32/L.40 and E/AC.32/NGO/1) (continued)
The Committee continued consideration of the draft Convention contained in Annex I to its first report (E/1618).
Article 23: Travel documents
The CHAIRMAN drew attention to the comments of the Governments of Austria, Chile and Italy (E/AC.32/L.40, pages 13, 51 and 52) and those of the Government of Australia (E/1703/Add.7, page 3. He suggested that the Committee should first discuss the principle of article 23 and then proceed to consider paragraph by paragraph the Schedule to the Convention (E/1618, pages 29-31), which related to that article.
With regard to the Chilean comment he observed that that Government was not alone in having instituted a special passport for refugees, but that even if all Governments had adopted some such practice it would be an advantage to adopt the unified system provided for in article 23. Furthermore there was no reason why the majority of countries should not adopt that system even if one preferred to retain its national legislation.
Mr. HENKIN (United States of America) hoped that countries like Chile would accept the provisions of article 23, both for the reason given by the Chairman and because he doubted whether the kind of document provided by such countries contained any provisions permitting the holder to re-enter the country.
Sir Leslie BRASS (United Kingdom) hoped, like the United States representative, that the document issued by the Chilean Government provided for re-entry. He also hoped that it was easily recognisable by the authorities of other States.
The CHAIRMAN suggested that as no change appeared to be called for in article 23 the Committee should proceed to consider paragraph 1 of the schedule.
It was so agreed.
Mr. HENKIN (United States of America) thought that he was not alone in wondering why the French language had been singled out for use in addition to that of the authority issuing a travel document. He felt that English should also be required since the two languages were equally working languages of the United Nations.
Sir Leslie BRASS (United Kingdom) agreed with the representative of the United States. He thought that the reasons why French alone had been mentioned were historical, namely that the provisions of previous conventions had applied mainly to Europe.
Mr. HERMENT (Belgium) shared the views expressed by the two previous speakers. He considered, however, that it would be preferable provisionally to retain the French language only, in order to use up the stocks of travel documents already printed in French. The new documents could include an English translation.
The CHAIRMAN noted that paragraph 2 of article 23 provided for the recognition of travel documents issued under previous agreements and hence covered all cases where printed travel documents had already been issued.
He recalled that during the previous discussions at Lake Success he had been unable to see why it should be obligatory to make out future travel documents in the national language of the issuing authority; French and English would cover international requirements. He therefore proposed as representative of Denmark that the words "at least two languages - French, and the national language or languages of the authority which issues it" be replaced by the words "at least two languages - English and French."
Mr. HERMENT (Belgium) reminded the Committee that certain entries had to be made in writing on the travel documents. If the Chairman's proposal were adopted, the authorities of certain countries would be obliged to make those entries in a foreign language.
The CHAIRMAN replied that the blank spaces in the travel document would in any case certainly have to be filled out in French and English. Details such as particulars of the holder, if entered in Danish, would be incomprehensible outside Denmark.
Mr. WEIS (International Refugee Organization) recalled that the form of travel document adopted at the first session of the Committee was that in use under the London Agreement, with some minor changes. If a further language was to be required it would not be possible to continue issuing those documents; it would be necessary to print new ones, which would involve waste of time and expenditure. There was sometimes a gap of several months between the accession of the Government concerned and the issue of the document, owing to delays in printing.
Mr. HENKIN (United States of America) had thought that a new document would be required in any case and that therefore the addition of the English language would not present any difficulty.
In reply to the representative of Belgium, he noted that even under the present agreements it was necessary to fill out documents in French, even if that was a foreign language, and that staff would not be greatly inconvenienced by having to use English also.
He favoured the formulation proposed by the Chairman, modified slightly so as to read "at least two languages, which shall include French and English". That would make it clear that whereas documents must be completed in French and English there would be no objection to the use of any number of other languages if desired.
Mr. NURELGIN (Turkey) pointed out that in his country the travel documents issued to refugees were in two languages: French and Turkish. A solution should, in fact, be found which made it possible to use up stocks already printed.
The CHAIRMAN said that, as regards the question which had been raised as to whether forms which had been printed and not yet issued could be used in future, he felt it would be better to confine the present discussion to forms which were to be printed in the future.
Mr. JUVIGNY (France) did not think it necessary to examine those questions separately. If the Committee decided that travel documents should be issued in at least two languages - French or English and the language of the issuing authority - all stocks could be used.
Mr. HENKIN (United States of America) said that in the hope of reaching a compromise, he would accept the suggestion that had been made; he therefore proposed that in paragraph 1 of the Schedule the words "at least two languages - French, and the national language or languages of the authority which had issued it" be replaced by the words "at least two languages, one of which shall be English or French".
It was so agreed.
Paragraph 1 of the Schedule was unanimously adopted as amended.
Paragraph 2 of the Schedule was unanimously adopted without discussion.
Mr. HERMENT (Belgium) wondered whether, at least at first sight, paragraph 3 did not contradict article 24 of the draft Convention. Article 24, paragraph 3, in fact provided that "The Contracting States reserve the right to impose upon refugees a special duty..." That special duty might make the charges for issuing a travel document higher than the lowest scale of charges for national passports.
The CHAIRMAN recalled that at the first session of the Committee paragraph 3 of Article 24 had been supported by the representative of France, who would perhaps have some observations with regard to the comments of the Belgian representative.
Mr. JUVIGNY (France) said that paragraph 3 of the Schedule was not incompatible with the third paragraph of article 24, but supplemented it.
Mr. ROBINSON (Israel) suggested that the objection of the Belgian representative might be met by amending paragraph 3 of the Schedule to read "Subject to the provisions of article 24, paragraph 3, the fees charged...".
Mr. HENKIN (United States of America) said that at the first session he had been opposed to alterations in the Schedule, which was taken from the London Agreement, unless absolutely necessary; he still felt that it might be better to amend paragraph 3 of article 24 so as to read "Without prejudice to paragraph 3 of the Schedule to article 23, the Contracting States reserve the right..."
Mr. HERMENT (Belgium) did not think that the United States representative's suggestion was as satisfactory as that put forward by the representative of Israel.
Sir Leslie BRASS (United Kingdom) observed that paragraph 3 of the Schedule and paragraph 3 of article 24 referred to entirely separate matters. Paragraph 3 of the Schedule was concerned with an administrative charge, a fee which went to the national exchequer of the issuing country; paragraph 3 of article 24 was concerned with a payment levied for charitable purposes for distribution to refugees in general, or to special classes of refugees.
It had, however, been his intention when the Committee came in due course to discuss article 24 to ask whether the representative of France still wished to retain paragraph 3 of that article.
Mr. JUVIGNY (France) felt that it was a question of substance. Did the Committee consider that paragraph 3 of the Schedule followed from the third paragraph of article 24, or did it think it necessary to include paragraph 3 of the Schedule in addition to article 24?
Mr. HERMENT (Belgium) reminded the Committee that the existing travel document, namely the Nansen Certificate, was subject both to a charge by the Government of the issuing country and to a special duty (Nansen Stamp) collected for the benefit of refugees. There was no question of any stamp for the travel document under consideration.
The CHAIRMAN, while agreeing that it would be undesirable to make unnecessary changes in provisions taken from the London Agreement, felt that if in the opinion of the Committee it was the intention of Governments to exact two payments from refugees - one to cover administrative charges and one for charitable purposes - then the provisions for those two charges might well be included in a single paragraph. The London Agreement was not necessarily more sacrosanct than any other agreement, and there was no reason why those who had favoured the inclusion of paragraph 3 of Article 24 should not add its provisions to paragraph 3 of the Schedule.
Mr. HERMENT (Belgium) accepted the solution suggested by the Chairman.
Mr. JUVIGNY (France) stated that he, too, would accept that solution if it were supported by the majority of the Committee.
Sir Leslie BRASS (United Kingdom) inferred from their acceptance of the Chairman's suggestion that the representatives of France and Belgium wished to retain a provision for levying a charge for charitable purposes.
After further discussion, it was agreed that paragraph 3 of the Schedule be amended to read "Subject to the provisions of paragraph 3 of article 24, the fees charged...".
Paragraph 3 of the Schedule was unanimously adopted as amended.
Paragraphs 4 and 5 of the Schedule were unanimously adopted without discussion.
Mr. HENKIN (United States of America) wondered why six months was specified in paragraph 6 as the period for which diplomatic or consular authorities were to be empowered to extend the validity of travel documents. The word "empowered" implied that such authorities would not necessarily be obliged to make extensions and there was no reason why discretion should not extend to a period of a year.
He was also afraid that situations might arise in which one country was not willing to extend any longer the validity of a travel document issued to a refugee, while the country of his new residence was not yet prepared to issue him one for the first time. To prevent the refugee from thus falling between two stools, he proposed the addition to paragraph 6, (1) of the following words: "No travel document shall be cancelled or its prolongation refused so long as a refugee shall not have received a new one from the country of his new residence."
Sir Leslie BRASS (United Kingdom) feared that the United States proposal went too far. One object of a travel document was to allow a refugee to go out and find his feet in another country. If the country of his first residence was forced to wait until a document had been issued by the country of new residence before cancelling its own document, it would probably never be released from its obligations. He felt that it was for the second country to take over the responsibilities of the first as soon as it had accepted the refugee as a resident.
The CHAIRMAN concurred.
Mr. HENKIN (United States of America) agreed generally with the United Kingdom representative. His particular concern, however, was the problem of the refugee who was considered by the country of his former residence to have settled in a new country but had not yet been accepted as a resident by that second country. He would not, however, insist on his point if the problem was not a real one, and hoped that the representative of the International Refugee Organization could express a view on the matter.
Mr. WEIS (International Refugee Organization) agreed that the difficult situation depicted by the United States representative might arise. A further difficulty might result from the fact that the diplomatic and consular authorities referred to were not obliged to make any extension. The present question was really whether in the opinion of the Committee most Governments would be prepared to go further than required by the provisions of paragraph 6 in the renewal or extension of travel documents. The problem was also closely connected with the validity of the provision in paragraph 13 for return without a visa. It would be remembered that the period during which a refugee might return could be reduced in exceptional cases to three months.
Mr. JUVIGNY (France) considered that although the Schedule was of a technical nature it would be possible to insert the United States representative's proposal in the form of a recommendation.
Mr. WINTER (Canada) supported the objections of the United Kingdom representative to the United States proposal, which would extend indefinitely the duration of the validity of travel documents and would lead both to hesitation in the issue of such documents and also, perhaps, to more reservations with regard to article 23.
Mr. HERMENT (Belgium) supported the views expressed by the Canadian representative and thought that the Committee should keep to the provisions submitted to it.
Mr. HENKIN (United States of America) was prepared to accept the suggestion of the French representative that his amendment be included in the form of a recommendation.
The CHAIRMAN proposed that the Committee should decide first whether it wished to adopt the United States amendment to the provisions of paragraph 6 of the Schedule, and secondly, if it did not, whether it wished to include that amendment as a recommendation. Accordingly, he put to the vote the proposal that the words "No travel document shall be cancelled or its prolongation refused so long as a refugee shall not have received a new one from the country of his new residence" be added to the provisions of paragraph 6.
The proposal was rejected by 5 votes to 4, with 2 abstentions.
The CHAIRMAN put to the vote the proposal that the Drafting Committee be instructed to include the same amendment, or some modification thereof, in paragraph 6 in the form of a recommendation.
The proposal was adopted by 6 votes to 3, with 2 abstentions.
Subject to this decision, paragraph 6 of the Schedule was unanimously adopted.
Mr. ROBINSON (Israel) wondered what was the relation between paragraph 7 of the Schedule and paragraph 2 of article 23 itself. Paragraph 1 of the article provided for the recognition of travel documents issued under the provisions of the Convention and paragraph 2 for documents issued under previous agreements. The two paragraphs therefore provided for the recognition of both kinds of document which might be in circulation. Was anything new added by paragraph 7 of the Schedule?
Sir Leslie BRASS (United Kingdom) thought that the provisions of paragraph 1 of article 23 and paragraph 7 of the Schedule were complementary. Paragraph 1 of the article referred to the issue of documents in the future; paragraph 7 of the Schedule provided for the recognition of such documents by other States.
Mr. ROBINSON (Israel) felt that the provisions of paragraph 7 of the Schedule should be incorporated in paragraph 1 of article 23 which ought to read "The Contracting States shall issue and mutually recognise..."
Mr. WEIS (International Refugee Organization) thought that, though from a purely legal point of view paragraph 7 was perhaps unnecessary, it might have some psychological value in stimulating recognition of travel documents issued under the present and previous agreements.
Paragraph 7 of the Schedule was unanimously adopted.
Paragraph 8 of the Schedule was unanimously adopted without discussion.
Mr. HENKIN (United States of America) suggested that the words "the territory" in paragraph 9 should be replaced by the words "a territory".
It was so agreed.
Paragraph 9 of the Schedule was unanimously adopted as amended.
Paragraph 10 of the Schedule was unanimously adopted without discussion.
Mr. HENKIN (United States of America) thought that the words "will be transferred" in paragraph 11 suggested a physical action. Some such phrase as "becomes transferred" should be employed to show that the transfer was automatic and required no action on the part of anyone.
The CHAIRMAN suggested that the objection of the United States representative be met by amending the words "will be transferred to the competent authority of that territory" to read "shall be in the competence of the authority of that territory".
It was so agreed.
Paragraph 11 of the Schedule was unanimously adopted as amended.
Paragraph 12 of the Schedule was unanimously adopted without discussion.
The CHAIRMAN, speaking as representative of Denmark, feared that paragraph 13 in its present form might lead to something in the nature of mental reservations on the part of authorities issuing travel documents. Any country which admitted an alien who was in possession of a national passport knew that as long as the passport remained valid it was in its power to return him to the country from which he came, even if he was not in possession of the re-entry visa which some countries required of their own nationals for fiscal and security reasons. When a refugee, on the other hand, travelled out of his country of residence, the first question which rose in the minds of the authorities of any country which admitted him was whether it would be possible to get rid of him. They knew that if they kept him after his travel document had expired, the country which had issued that document could disclaim any further responsibility for him, but as long as that travel document remained valid he would be admitted on the understanding that at least one country would accept him again. If that last protection for countries admitting refugees in possession of travel documents issued by their country of residence was removed, entry visas would be supplied only after careful study of the probability of a refugee being permitted to return to his country of residence.
The purpose of article 23 was to make it possible for a refugee to travel away from his country of residence with the same relative facility as nationals of most countries, and, if the countries in which he travelled were deprived of their only safeguard, his travel document would become worthless. The Danish delegation therefore wished to delete from paragraph 13 of the Schedule the words "subject to those laws and regulations which apply to the bearers of duly visaed passports."
If those words were deleted, a country which permitted a refugee to travel abroad but did not wish to allow him to re-enter would be obliged to furnish him with a special paper making the position clear and duly warning any countries which might visa that paper.
Mr. HENKIN (United States of America), while sharing the Chairman's sentiments, was not sure if he understood his objections to paragraph 13. He had thought that the period for which a travel document would remain valid must be entered on it. As he understood the provisions of paragraph 13, it was possible for Contracting States to limit the period during which a refugee might return to three months instead of one year, but such a limitation could not be made as a mental reservation; it must be explicitly stated.
Sir Leslie BRASS (United Kingdom) thought that in addressing his objections to the words "subject to those laws and regulations which apply to the bearers of duly visaed passports", the Chairman had meant that according to the present formulation of paragraph 13 it was open to any country which had issued a travel document to a refugee, to refuse him permission to re-enter under the same conditions as an alien with a duly visaed passport, even though that travel document was still valid.
The CHAIRMAN thanked the representative of the United Kingdom for correctly explaining the reason for his proposal.
Mr. HERMENT (Belgium) said that he would be more inclined to support the observations of the United States representative. Indeed, if the travel document contained nothing to the contrary, it gave the holder the right to re-enter the issuing country during the period of its validity. Moreover, if that country wished to reduce the period, it could do so by appending a restrictive visa to the travel document. That was done by certain countries, even in the case of their own nationals.
The CHAIRMAN, speaking as Danish representative, felt that the words which he proposed to delete could not support the interpretation which the representative of Belgium wished to give to them.
According to Danish law an alien not able to support himself could not be admitted to the country even if his passport was valid and duly visaed. Article 13 would place the holder of a travel document in the same position, whereas in his opinion the holders of travel documents, even if they were penniless or suffering from infectious diseases, ought to be received back by the country which had issued the documents on trust of which other countries had admitted them.
Mr. HENKIN (United States of America) feared that in misunderstanding the Chairman he had misled the representative of Belgium. If the Chairman's entire objection was to the phrase "subject to those laws and regulations which apply to the bearers of duly visaed passports", he would support its deletion.
The CHAIRMAN, speaking as Danish representative, said he wished also to delete the second sentence of paragraph 13, (a). A refugee would not take out a travel document unless he intended to travel abroad and there was no reason why the return visa should not be supplied when the document was issued. If the refugee was obliged to apply for the visa after leaving the country, his passport might perhaps have expired before the visa was issued, and again the responsibility would pass to another country.
Mr. WEIS (International Refugee Organization) said that the second sentence of paragraph 13, (1) had been added to take account of the special situation in Turkey, where a visa had been required for the return of nationals; it had been considered desirable that refugees should not be accorded better treatment than nationals in that respect. As Turkey had now abolished that requirement in respect of its nationals, and as the provision was not to be found in the London Agreement he thought that the second sentence might be deleted.
Mr. NURELGIN (Turkey) confirmed that they re-entry visa had been abolished in Turkey.
Sir Leslie BRASS (United Kingdom) said that his country, in view of the fact that Turkey no longer required the provision in the second sentence, favoured its deletion.
With regard to the last clause of the first sentence, his own Government might be prepared to accept its deletion. On the other hand, the same restriction had been inserted in the London Agreement, and had been regarded as important by many countries. If it were omitted, the omission might lead to reservations on the part of such countries, which would militate against the ultimate value of the Convention to refugees. The restriction had appeared in the agreement of 1946, and had given no trouble, because States had not made use of the powers it gave them. It had to be remembered that States, in order to safeguard their position, preferred to have the powers in reserve that were granted to them in that clause, even though they did not use them; if they did not retain those powers, they would probably insist on making a reservation. For that reason, therefore, he considered it desirable to retain the clause.
Mr. PEREZ PEROZO (Venezuela) said that nationals returning to his country required visas from consulates abroad. If the second sentence were deleted, therefore, his Government would probably make a reservation in respect of the paragraph.
The CHAIRMAN, speaking as Danish representative, pointed out that the question of whether a person entering a country required a visa or not was a purely internal one for States. If a national entered his own country, that country was obliged to admit him, whether or not he had a visa for entry or even a passport. In the case of a refugee, however, no country was in the same way obliged to admit him. He was anxious to avoid such a situation occurring and had therefore proposed that the last clause of the first sentence be deleted.
Mr. HERMENT (Belgium) observed that, under the second sentence of paragraph 13, (1), a visa requested by a returning refugee was to be issued without delay.
Sir Leslie BRASS (United Kingdom) considered that, as it was clear that at least one country regarded the second sentence as important, and as the sentence was merely procedural and mandatory in intention, as the Belgian representative had said, it was better, in the interests of the refugees, to retain it.
The CHAIRMAN put to the vote the second sentence of paragraph 13, (1).
The second sentence of paragraph 13, (1) was adopted by 7 votes to 1 with 3 abstentions.
The CHAIRMAN put to the vote the last clause of the first sentence of paragraph 13, (1), namely the words "subject to those laws and regulations which apply to the bearers of duly visaed passports".
The last clause of the first sentence of paragraph 13, (1) was adopted by 4 votes to 2, with 5 abstentions.
Paragraph 13, (1) of the Schedule was adopted.
Mr. HERMENT (Belgium) wondered why the original text of paragraph 13, (2) has been modified and proposed that the phrase "to a period of not less than three months" should be replaced by the original wording, "the said period being not less than three months".
The CHAIRMAN thought that the Belgian representative's suggestion, as it involved merely a drafting change, should be considered by the Drafting Committee.
It was so agreed.
Mr. WEIS (International Refugee Organization) said that in the experience of his Organization the right reserved to contracting States for exceptional cases in paragraph 13, (2) had in some cases in fact been exercised as a rule. He appealed to States to exercise it only as laid down in paragraph 13 (2), in exceptional cases, or in cases where the refugee's stay was authorized for a specific period.
Sir Leslie BRASS (United Kingdom) and Mr. HENKIN (United States of America) supported the appeal of the representative of the International Refugee Organization.
Paragraph 13, (2) of the Schedule was unanimously adopted.
Paragraphs 14, 15 and 16 of the Schedule were unanimously adopted without discussion.
The CHAIRMAN called for further general observations on the Schedule.
Mr. WEIS (International Refugee Organization) said that article 23 was of the utmost importance; not only did it provide for rights for refugees of the greatest value but it also created relations between States. Governments usually retained the discretionary right to permit refugees to return to their countries or not, but, by virtue of the Schedule, refugees would in future be given the right to return to the country where travel documents had been issued to them. He had been struck by the fact that some of the Governments concerned had said they would not be in a position to accept article 23 and the Schedule without reservations, and had not always given reasons for making such reservations. He appealed to all Governments to accept article 23 and the Schedule. Nearly all Governments issued travel documents to aliens who had no passports; article 23 and the Schedule, if accepted, would create uniformity, and introduce the so-called 'return' clause that was not always to be found in national documents.
The CHAIRMAN pointed out that in paragraph 2 of the introduction to the specimen travel document (E/1618, page 32) no mention had been made of the possible need of a visa. It was improbable that the authorities handling the travel document, such as the consular officer and the police, would necessarily know the laws of their country in respect of visas. It therefore seemed to him essential, at least in the case of those countries which did not allow the unconditional return of refugees, that the paragraph should be changed to enable the inclusion of a reference to special visa regulations.
Mr. HENKIN (United States of America) said that, while he had agreed with the Chairman's objection to the last clause of the first sentence of paragraph 13, (1) of the Schedule, the Committee could not now reopen that question, as it had already been dealt with. There was also much force in the United Kingdom representative's comment that the practice of States had been unobjectionable. He thought, however, that the wording of paragraph 2 of the introduction to the specimen travel document might perhaps be modified at the second reading.
Mr. ROBINSON (Israel) pointed out that the wording of the paragraph required alteration to bring it into line with the wording in paragraph 13 of the Schedule. He suggested that the question be referred to the Drafting Committee.
Mr. WEIS (International Refugee Organization) said that the paragraph, as understood in his Organization, covered the cases referred to in paragraph 13, (1), first sentence, and paragraph 13, (2) of the Schedule, but not those referred to in the second sentence of paragraph 13, (1). As the situation, however, was the same for refugees as for ordinary aliens in countries requiring a visa for persons returning to it, there did not seem to be any need to put a specific provision in the document.
Mr. HENKIN (United States of America) did not think that there was any necessity for such countries to make a special entry in respect of the second sentence of paragraph 13, (1), in a travel document any more than in a passport. On the other hand, it might possibly be essential to make an entry covering the last clause of the first sentence of paragraph 13, (1). He supported the Israeli representative's suggestion that the question be left to the Drafting Committee, but only in respect of that clause.
The CHAIRMAN proposed that no change be made at present, and that the question be left to the Drafting Committee.
It was so agreed.
Article 24: Fiscal Charges
The CHAIRMAN said that no country had submitted comments on the first two paragraphs of article 24. Chile had objected to paragraph 3, but as that paragraph merely reserved to Contracting States the right to impose a special duty upon refugees, there seemed no reason why the Committee should not adopt the whole article.
Sir Leslie BRASS (United Kingdom) said that on the whole his country would prefer that paragraph 3 should be deleted, but if the countries which regarded it as desirable still considered it essential to retain it, his Government would not object.
The CHAIRMAN, speaking as representative of Denmark, said that his country adopted the same view as that expressed by the United Kingdom representative. It also thought that the special duty should be limited in amount, in order to prevent States from using the imposition of such a duty to restrict the liberty of refugees.
Mr. JUVIGNY (France) said he would not repeat the grounds of principle on which the French delegation had requested the inclusion of paragraph 3 in article 24. But he wished to stress that the paragraph in question merely allowed any Contracting State which wished to do so to impose a special duty on refugees. It created no general obligation, only an obligation on any State which imposed the special duty to apply it wholly to charities for the relief of refugees.
The French delegation wished that provision to be retained; but if representatives feared that certain States would be inclined to fix an excessively high duty, his delegation was prepared to consider the principle of limiting the amount.
The CHAIRMAN noted that the Nansen stamp, which was a similar special duty on refugees, cost five gold francs. He suggested therefore that words such as "not exceeding five gold francs" be inserted after the words "special duty".
Mr. PEREZ PEROZO (Venezuela) maintained that, although paragraph 3 was not mandatory, and although it was designed to provide relief for refugees, it nevertheless constituted an imposition upon individual refugees. He did not know to what extent States could or would apply it, but it seemed to him that its application might well involve a complicated procedure and the use of considerable numbers of administrative personnel. Also, as the Chairman had remarked, the special duty imposed might well be too high. It would be better to grant relief to refugees under the general relief measures of a country. He accordingly supported the proposal that paragraph 3 be deleted.
Mr. JUVIGNY (France) was prepared to accept a limitation in the form of a reference to the Nansen Stamp; but he would point out that references to the gold standard, whether in public law texts or in private contracts, were prohibited by law in certain countries. That being so, he wondered whether the inclusion of such a reference in an international convention would not be likely to embarrass those countries. In order to avoid that difficulty, he proposed the insertion of the words "of a moderate amount" after the words "a special duty" in the second line of paragraph 3 of article 24.
He further considered that most of the objections to the paragraph that had been submitted were invalid and, in particular, he did not believe that the mere stamping of a document and the distribution of the revenue collected by that means could involve heavy administrative charges.
Mr. HENKIN (United States of America) said that he had intended to propose an amendment much on the lines suggested by the French representative, and suggest that the duty should be described as either "nominal" or "limited". There might also be a reference to a stamp, as stamps usually connoted the levy of small sums.
With regard to the question of the deletion of the paragraph, his delegation had no strong opinions. The Nansen stamps had served a good purpose, and IRO had not objected to the insertion of the paragraph. He thought that, as the paragraph merely constituted a reservation, the desired purpose might well be achieved by adding the words "to continue" after the word "right"; such an addition would limit the right to States which had in the past been imposing such a special duty upon refugees.
Mr. CHA (China) said that in his country identity cards were issued to everyone, whether nationals or refugees, without condition and without charge. Refugees were not especially wealthy persons, and if the only intention of the special duty referred to in paragraph 3 was to help them, it would be better to approach the rich. Moreover, refugees were persons who required aid, not persons upon whom special duties should be levied. As there was no good reason for the imposition of such a special duty, he supported the proposals that the paragraph be deleted.
Mr. HERMENT (Belgium) was afraid that the retention of paragraph 3 would involve administrative difficulties since it would be advisable to have a uniform stamp issued by a single official organ, which might be the High Commissioner's Office for Refugees.
In addition, revenue collected by that means would likewise have to be deposited with an official organ, which might also be the High Commissioner's Office. At all events, administrative arrangements would be entailed, and the Belgian delegation therefore supported the deletion of that paragraph.
Sir Leslie BRASS (United Kingdom) thought that the French representative's amendment made a satisfactory compromise, but he suggested that the question be referred to the Drafting Committee for a formula acceptable to all.
Mr. HERMENT (Belgium) asked whether the Drafting Committee could not also examine practical measures for putting the provision into effect.
The CHAIRMAN said that the existing position was that certain groups of refugees came within the competence of the Nansen organization and paid, to the country issuing travel documents to them, five gold francs which were transferred to the Nansen office. It had been agreed at the previous session of the Committee that such a transfer of gold would be unacceptable to the majority of countries, and the insertion of a provision for such transfer had accordingly been ruled out. It had then been suggested that the elimination of such a provision should not mean that passports or travel documents would be granted to refugees at a cheaper rate than before, and some Governments had felt that refugees should indeed pay more than nationals were required to pay. The money thus received would not be transferred to an international organization, but would be used within the receiving country for the relief of refugees. The international aspect of the question had thus been dropped.
The questions now before the Committee were whether the fees paid by refugees for identity cards, residence permits or travel documents should be more than the normal, and if so whether the extra fees should be limited in amount.
Mr. HERMENT (Belgium) considered that the wording of paragraph 3 of article 24 was much too vague. He asked, for example, what precisely were the charities contemplated? With a view to avoiding abuses he would prefer the revenue collected by that means to be deposited with an official organ.
Mr. NURELGIN (Turkey) thought it preferable that the Committee should decide whether to retain or delete the paragraph before referring the matter to the Drafting Committee. He himself would vote for the deletion of the paragraph.
The CHAIRMAN said that the procedure should be, first, to determine whether the special duty imposable by Contracting States should be limited in amount or not, then to decide whether paragraph 3 should be deleted, since some States might be prepared to accept the paragraph provided the amount of duty was limited.
Mr. PEREZ PEROZO (Venezuela) thought that the French representative's proposal was extremely vague and ambiguous in meaning, as a duty which appeared moderate to a State might not necessarily appear so to a refugee. He thought that the paragraph should be deleted.
Sir Leslie BRASS (United Kingdom) asked that in the voting the special difficulties of France should be borne in mind. France had been put to immense inconvenience by the influx of refugees, and had nevertheless displayed great liberality towards them.
The CHAIRMAN said that as it was not the custom to deal with drafting questions in the Committee, and as the Committee would have another opportunity for comment at the second reading, he proposed to leave specific amendments to the Drafting Committee and to take a vote on the principle only. The first question he would put to the vote was whether the special duty referred to in paragraph 3 should be limited in amount.
Mr. HERMENT (Belgium) thought it would also be desirable for a vote to be taken on the question of the application of revenue accruing from the special duty payable by refugees.
Mr. JUVIGNY (France) considered that, according to the existing wording of paragraph 3, the question did not exactly take the form given it by the Belgian representative. The paragraph in question allowed States the right to impose a special duty and, that being so, the question of allocation of the revenue was not an international problem but a purely national one.
He himself was quite unable to state in advance how the revenue thus obtained would be allocated among the three categories of welfare institutions, public, semi-public and private, which were to be found in France and probably in other countries as well. The revenue would be allocated for the purpose indicated in paragraph 3 of article 24, and probably divided between the three categories to which he had referred. At all events, he considered that the question should be dealt with by the Committee in the manner suggested by the Chairman.
Mr. CHA (China) said that his delegation was prepared to vote in favour of limitation, provided that imposition of the duty remained on a national and not on an international basis.
The Committee decided in favour of the limitation of the special duty referred to in article 24, (3) by 8 votes to none, with 3 abstentions.
The CHAIRMAN put to the vote the question whether paragraph 3 of article 24, as amended to permit the imposition of only a limited special duty, should be retained or deleted.
The Committee decided to retain paragraph 3 of article 24, as amended, by 4 votes to 3, with 4 abstentions.
The CHAIRMAN, speaking as representative of Denmark, said that he had voted in favour of the retention of the paragraph for the same reasons as the United Kingdom representative had advanced, namely, to enable other countries to impose a special duty on refugees. Denmark would impose no such duty.
Discussion on article 24 was closed.
Article 25: Transfer of assets
There were no comments on article 25.
Article 29: Naturalization
Mr. ROBINSON (Israel) wondered whether there existed a legal definition of the word "assimilation". The word "naturalization" was well known and bore a distinct meaning, but the word "assimilation", well known in sociology, bore a rather unpleasant connotation closely related to the notion of force. If it was merely intended to mean the making accessible of facilities for learning the language of a country, there could be no objection to it. If, however, assimilation were voluntary, there would be no need for any mention of it, and if it were not voluntary, it would be an attack upon the spiritual independence of the refugee. It had to be remembered that the real refugees were the political refugees, such as the Spanish republicans. It appeared that France did not intend to assimilate the Spanish republicans who had fled into that country, nor did the republicans themselves wish to be assimilated. In view of those considerations, he proposed that the words "assimilation and" be deleted from article 29.
Mr. HENKIN (United States of America) said that the word "assimilation" was to be found both in the General Assembly resolution on the subject of refugees and in the Statute for the High Commissioner's Office. The fact that it was to be found there did not necessarily constitute a reason for retaining it, but the particular connotation found in article 29 had now apparently been accepted. If the Committee wished, however, to delete the word, his delegation would not object.
Mr. PEREZ PEROZO (Venezuela) quoted a provision in one of his country's laws on resettlement and immigration, in which the word "assimilation" contained no suggestion of compulsion. His country, like the other young countries of Latin America, contained enormous under-developed areas, and afforded great scope for economic development, and it hoped to receive, and would welcome, immigration. It also hoped, however, that immigrants and refugees would be absorbed within the national community and not remain isolated; it hoped, in other words, that they would be assimilated. The word "assimilation", however vague legally, had thus in practice much meaning, and he thought that it should be retained.
Mr. JUVIGNY (France) supported the remarks of the Venezuelan representative. The essential purpose of the Convention was to accord refugees a status at least as favourable as and, in many cases, far superior to that of aliens generally. The purpose of the recommendation in article 29 was to bring about the naturalization of the largest possible number of refugees. The term "assimilation" had of course a special connotation in sociology and might perhaps carry with it certain unpleasant association. Nevertheless, in the sense in which it was used in the context, it was an apt description of a certain stage in the development of the life of the refugee and of the general refugee problem.
The Convention was intended to provide refugees with a means of existence and at the same time to accord more favourable treatment than that granted generally to aliens to those refugees desirous of settling in a country for a certain length of time. Its final aim was to permit the assimilation of refugees into a national community by means of naturalization proceedings. He accordingly considered that the term "assimilation" clearly corresponded to the conditions the refugee should fulfil in order to qualify for naturalization.
As regards the term having a legal significance, it occurred several times in the new nationality code adopted in France, not only in the preamble to the text but in the actual provisions themselves. It was employed in particular with reference to the automatic acquisition of nationality. He therefore felt that, even if some doubts were entertained as to the legal meaning of the term, it was nonetheless an apt description of the intermediate stage between the establishment of the refugee on a particular territory and his naturalization. In the opinion of the French delegation, not only was there no objection to using the term in article 29, of which the final aim was the naturalization of the refugee and which, he might add, was only a recommendation, but there might even be an advantage in doing so.
Mr. ROBINSON (Israel) thought that the words "adaptation" or "adjustment" might be preferable to "assimilation". He suggested, however, that the matter be left for the moment as it stood, and that the Drafting Committee be asked to consider the introduction of a more suitable word; it was clear that all were agreed on the concept.
Mr. CHA (China) said that his country had been uniquely successful in assimilating foreigners, whether invaders or refugees. He thought that the word "assimilation" should be retained, as it expressed exactly the intention of the article.
Mr. WINTER (Canada) said that in his country the word "assimilation" was in general use with reference to the permanent settlement of immigrants. It had to be remembered that refugees not assimilated might not desire naturalization, and, on the other hand, that a country itself might not be prepared to grant naturalization if the refugees were not assimilated. He favoured the retention of the word.
The CHAIRMAN thought that the Drafting Committee might be able to suggest some small drafting change which would meet the objections of the Israeli representative.
Mr. SCHÜRCH (Switzerland) stated that Swiss Federal legislation did not provide for any different treatment for refugees in the matter of naturalization. They were treated in the same way as other aliens who were required to have resided lawfully in Switzerland for six years during the twelve years preceding their application before they could submit a valid application for naturalization. Sojourn in Switzerland as a refugee counted as lawful residence. In point of fact, a longer period of residence was required in order to ensure that the applicant had been sufficiently assimilated, and for that reason, the preliminary draft of the new nationality law considerably lengthened the minimum period of lawful residence required.
Mr. MALFATTI (Italy) said he wished to reaffirm the reservations already expressed by his Government with regard to article 29. Italy was subjected to considerable population pressure, the economic and social repercussions of which were most serious. The Italian Government was accordingly obliged to adopt a very strict attitude on the question of naturalization and, during recent years, the number of naturalizations, even of aliens normally resident in Italy, had been reduced to a minimum. There could hence be no question of the mass naturalization of several thousands of refugees.
As a matter of fact, the question of naturalizing refugees did not generally arise in his country which, by reason of its geographical position and of certain other special considerations, could only offer them temporary hospitality. In that respect, the Italian Government had always done and would continue to do everything in its power to assist refugees. It had, for example, concluded an agreement the previous year with the International Refugee Organization permitting the transit of 100,000 refugees, and had also recently concluded an agreement with the Government of Israel under which 60,000 Jews would be able to embark for Israel from Italian ports.
Discussion on article 29 was closed.
The meeting rose at 5.45 p.m.