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Statement by Mr. Felix Schnyder, United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees, to the Council of the Intergovernmental Committee for European Migration (ICEM) at its nineteenth Session in Geneva, 2 May 1963

Speeches and statements

Statement by Mr. Felix Schnyder, United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees, to the Council of the Intergovernmental Committee for European Migration (ICEM) at its nineteenth Session in Geneva, 2 May 1963

2 May 1963

Mr. Chairman, Honourable Delegates,

It is indeed a pleasure and a privilege to address the representatives of Member Governments of ICEM at this Nineteenth Session of your Council and I should like to wish you every success.

International work for refugees is a very vast and complex enterprise. Its success depends on active interest and generosity from a great variety of sources: governments, international agencies, voluntary organizations and people of good will, each of whom have a particular role to play. Within this diverse field, however, there is one established partnership that has particular significance and which illustrates the spirit of co-operative efforts. The partnership to which I refer takes the form of a Working Group comprising ICEM, USEP and UNHCR which meets regularly on a policy making and on a working and operational level to discuss and co-ordinate our fields of common interest. Since 1955 this group has been of great value in discharging the duties placed upon it by the international community. I recently said to my own Executive Committee that "their co-operation is in many respects essential, and indeed vital to this Office. It is difficult to see haw my Office could hope to perform its duties, whether in material assistance or in the field of emigration, if it were not able to rely on one or other of these partners or on all three of them together."

Appearing I ring here today before the ICEM Council. I again wish to emphasize the particular importance which we attach to the services which ICEM, under its own terms of reference, is rendering to the cause of refugees. Considering the purpose of my Office these services are, if I may again quote the statement to which I referred, vital. What ICEM is doing for refugees is not only manifested in important financial terms of an annual movement budget of approximately six million dollars but also in highly expert technical handling of the transport arrangements for refugees, 23,000 of them last year alone. It is clear that the partnership of my Office and ICEM does, in fact, provide the machinery through which effective international assistance is provided to refugees who wish to emigrate.

As I was happy to inform the recent session of the Executive Committee of UNHCR, 1962 has been a satisfactory resulting in the settlement under our various programmes of more than 12,000 refugees. Of the 30,000 "old" refugees covered by our Major Lid Projects, 16,000 are included in the 1962/63 programme while the remaining 14,000 are provided for in previous programmes. Now that we are entering the home stretch of this work INCE, will with the technical services it has developed be of the greatest importance in completing this task, taking charge of the movement of those refugees who will find a new basis of life in the countries oil their final destination.

Regarding special schemes, there has also been substantial progress during 1962. Selection missions from Denmark, Switzerland, Belgium and Sweden visited the main countries of asylum and accepted considerable numbers. To demonstrate the impact of these schemes I would simply ply take one example the Swedish mission which had authority to select 500 refugees including a number of handicapped cases, took 60 out of the 110 refugees registered. For resettlement in Turkey, and in Greece they took 139 refugees including all but two of the remaining Jensen cases. A number of other countries particularly France continued to admit aged refugees for placement in institutions. Certain other countries devised special schemes, such as the Netherlands which admitted a group of refugees from Italy under a special training pro which would permit who, to enter the shipbuilding industry as artisans with a degree of skill.

As regards the problem of 850 severely handicapped refugees covered by Dr. Jensen's survey, today Lass than 530 still remain to be resettled. This progress is highly gratifying and .The hope to be in a position by next autumn to give governments a more definite picture of results that will have boon achieved with this inspired ultimate effort of the international community to offer severely handicapped refugees a chance for a normal and useful life. In speaking of the Jensen survey, I can quote it as an example] of the joint efforts of USEP, ICEM and my Office. Although the first phase of this action is now concluded the machinery and techniques still exist for use as, whom and where required and in this respect we would need to lean heavily upon the assistance of the ICEM and in particular, of its medical staff. Finally, with regard to severely handicapped refugees we realise that there may be problems which cannot be solved by resettlement there despite all the ingenuity and devotion of interested governments and groups, and that I hope for a very limited extent we may have to fall back on a certain alternative solutions such as protected communities.

UNHCR attaches the greatest importance to resettlement which is an essential one of the classical solution for the problem of refugees. My Office wishes to document, possible to encourage governments to develop and facilitate this solution. We are constantly in touch with refugees to determine the most effective manner in which we can facilitate their resettlement. We, of course, maintain statistical data on refugees seeking resettlement which is constantly being scrutinized and reviewed in co-ordination with ICEM. His task is not very simple. Indeed there are many refugees in this residual caseload who have great difficulties in making up their own minds. Others, discouraged by repeated rejections, may just be too dismayed to come forward again. Furthermore, it is difficult for the network of the voluntary agencies with which we working to reach refugees who may be interested in resettlement but who are living privately, scattered over the country. In this respect, it was easier to contact and lid the refugees who lived in camps. But, we hope to be able to assess and help the caseload.

Our resettlement policy I basically has two vital elements to encourage governments of traditional L resettlement which operate annual migration programmes to reserve part of those programmes for refugees second, and as far as necessary, to interest to accept, if need be under particular admission arrangements, either groups or persons Who arc handicapped. I might add that one government Australia has already sought my views in order to make provision for refugees within their advanced planning. By the way, I should like to mention It this point that at the and of "all I will - have the privilege of making an official visit to Australia and Now Zealand which rank among the leading nation a which have traditionally offered a home for refugees. Another Government Sweden has already indicated its intention to consider an additional intake during 1963 which will include some refugees suffering from mental disorders. This decision is an outstanding milestone on the long road towards solutions for the handicapped have at other times referred to the special refugee legislation adopted by the Government of the United States of America known as Public Law 36-643 which I am most happy is continuing. I confidentially hope that the provisions of this Law will be administered as generously and sympathetically as in the past. Saying this, I only do regret that the man who was the architect of this Legislation, Congressman Walter to whom many refugees owe so much, is not here today.

While my Office fully recognizes the outstanding efforts of governments and appreciates the hard work of their officials throughout the world nevertheless I must take this occasion to spell out the essential role played by the voluntary agencies both international and national. These, daily, prepare by counselling the refugees in countries of first asylum to recognize and accept available current resettlement opportunities. On arrival in their new land, counterpart agencies, working side by side with government departments play a major role in successful assimilation and integration. My Office will continue to co-operate with all such agencies in as practical and realistic a manner as possible.

In conclusion, Mr. Chairman, I would like to thank you most warmly for the opportunity which you have given me of making a statement to this session of your Council.