Provisional Summary Record of the Two Hundred And Sixtieth Meeting Held at Lake Success. New York, on Friday, 11 November 1949, at 10.45 a.m.
Chairman: Mr. Carlos E. STOLK Venezuela
Rapporteur: Mr. Frantisek VRBA Czechoslovakia
Any corrections to this record should be submitted in triplicate in one of the working languages (English, French or Spanish), within two working days, to the Director, Official Records Division, Room F-520, Lake Success. Corrections should bear the appropriate symbol number and be enclosed in an envelope marked "URGENT". Corrections can be dealt with more speedily if delegations will be good enough to incorporate them in a mimeographed copy of the record.
REFUGEES AND STATELESS PERSONS: ITEM PROPOSED BY THE ECONOMIC AND SOCIAL COUNCIL (A/971, A/1059, A/C.3/527, A/C.3/527/Corr.1, A/C.3/528, A/C.3/529, A/C.3/L.25) (continued)
1. The CHAIRMAN said the discussion on the problem of refugees and stateless persons would be resumed. He referred members of the Committee to the relevant documents before them.
2. Mrs. ROOSEVELT (United States of America) said she wished to reply to four questions asked by the representative of Pakistan.
3. First, he had asked why protection should not be continued under the International Refugee Organization. She wished to point out that only eighteen governments had become members of that organization, while the great majority of governments had not felt able to join, primarily on financial grounds. The provision of protection should be the concern of all Member Governments of the United Nations. Indeed, that protection could only gain substance if it was given by all the Members of the United Nations. Its cost was not great and, if shared by all Member States in the regular budget of the United Nations, it would not fall as a heavy burden upon any one government. Furthermore, the eighteen Member governments of the IRO, which had joined an admittedly temporary organization, had decided that they were not prepared to continue the IRO for the sole purpose of providing protection for a continuing period of time.
4. Secondly, the representative of Pakistan had asked for what period it was proposed to provide protection under the auspices of the United Nations. No categorical answer could be given to that question. The time required would depend on the rate of progress made by the refugees under protection in achieving a normal life, exemplified by the acquisition of citizenship in a country of final residence. For the immediate purposes of the United Nations, it would be desirable to establish the office of High Commissioner for a period of three years in order to provide the possibility of reviewing at a later stage the need for continuing the service of protection under the United Nations.
5. Thirdly, the Pakistan representative had pointed out that page 25 of the Secretary-General's report referred to a statement by the IRO that 20,000 refugees would require institutional care of an indefinite duration, and had said that such a statement was inconsistent with that made by the United States representative that period of mass care and maintenance of refugees would come to an end upon the termination of IRO on 1 January 1951. She wished to emphasize that the IRO had attempted to make prevision for the continuing care of cases requiring institutional treatment; 10,000,000 dollar had been allocated for that purpose in the budget for 1949, and a further 12,000,000 dollars for the period after 30 June 1950. It was hoped that before ceasing to function, the IRO would be able to allocate additional residual funds for the 20,000 refugees mentioned in the Secretary-General's report. No appeal to the General Assembly for funds for the continuing maintenance of dependent refugees was envisaged in the proposal under discussion by the Committee.
6. Lastly, the Pakistan representative had expressed the view that if the General Assembly was to assume responsibility for refugees, it should do so on a global basis, and he had in that connexion mentioned the six or seven million refugees in his own country. That raised a very large problem indeed. The Pakistan representative had in fact suggested that the General Assembly should accept responsibility for all categories of refugees existing in any part of the world, and also for such other categories as might develop in the future. The matter required very careful consideration, and she wondered whether the General Assembly would be prepared at the present juncture to assume responsibility for other groups of refugees than those defined in the IRO Constitution. It should be borne in mind, however, that at its last session the Economic and Social Council had set up an ad hoc Committee to review existing conventions providing protection for refugees and to consider the desirability of drafting a single convention to be submitted to the General Assembly for approval. In accomplishing that task, the ad hoc committee would have to deal first with the categories of refugees who were to be covered by the draft convention. Thus, the question raised by the Pakistan representative would in any case be examined, objectively and judiciously, by a formal body of the United Nations. She thought that was the best procedure for determining what responsibilities with respect to what groups of refugees the General Assembly should undertake.
7. At the previous meeting of the Committee, the Byelorussian representative had agreed with her statement that the people of the United States did not want war, but had then gone on to allege that the Government of the United States, on the other hand, was bent on a war policy. She wished to emphasize that in a democracy the Government was controlled by the people to whom it was responsible. Regarding the Byelorussian representative's assertions that displaced persons camps were controlled by fascists and former war criminals, she wanted to remind him that under the Yalta Agreement USSR nationals had been put in charge of the administration of camps containing USSR citizens. That provision of the Yalta Agreement had been carried out throughout 1945, with the result that many people had been forcibly repatriated to the USSR, and that riots had broken out in various camps against such forcible repatriation. After two million people had been so repatriated, UNNRA had taken over the administration of the camps in question, and in December 1945 the United States government had advised the USSR that it would repatriate by force only former war criminals or deserters. The United States regretted that it had to some extent abetted the forcible repatriation which had been carried out by USSR officials before that date.
8. Mr. DEMCHENKO (Ukrainian Soviet Socialist Republic) said he was not surprised that his statements should prove so unpalatable to the representatives of the United Kingdom and of the United States. Indeed, they contained facts which could not and, indeed, had never been denied - not even partially. The United States representative had recently accused him of making statements which could only cause friction and misunderstanding. In his opinion, friction and misunderstanding were not caused by speeches made in the Committee, but rather by the activities of the United States occupation authorities in Germany and Austria, which refused to hand over Ukrainian war criminals, formed military organizations from among displaced persons and gave them military training, or else simply expelled USSR repatriation missions, as had been the case in Austria. Indeed, there would have been no need for any speeches had there been no such activities.
9. Secondly, the United States representative had accused him of having said that the people of the United States were preparing for war. He had always been most careful to draw a clear-cut distinction between the people of the United States and their government. The people undoubtedly did not want war. The same, however, could not be said of the monopolists, who, having derived huge profits from the human misery and world tragedy of the late war, were now bent on unleashing a third world war. Of course, the people of the United States were not interested in keeping Ukrainian war criminals, or giving military training top displaced persons, or, indeed, hindering repatriation. Yet that was being done by their authorities in Germany. The people of the United States wanted peace, like all other nations. Yet their Government was increasing its military budget from year to year, acquiring strategic bases thousands of miles away from its own territory and encircling the USSR, while the press of the United States was brazenly brandishing the threat of the atom bomb and gloating in anticipation over the devastation and casualties it would wreak in Kiev or Leningrad. Nor could the people of the United States be blamed for the creation of aggressive blocs, such as the Western European bloc and the Atlantic bloc.
10. The United States representative had also referred to some people being frightened. He could assure her that the people of his country were not frightened in any way, and that they would continue to fight for peace as they had done in the past, in the knowledge that right and justice were on their side.
11. At the previous meeting, Mr. Corley Smith, the representative of the United Kingdom, had complained that he was weary. At one of the preceding meetings, he had said that he was bored. Indeed, he always seemed to be either weary or bored whenever the subject came up for discussion and he was unable to deny the accusations made against his country.
12. Mr. Demchenko had always said that repatriation was the only possible solution to the problem of refugees and stateless persons. He had, however, never advocated repatriation by force. Indeed, the main mass of refugees and displaced persons had been forcibly deported from their countries for slave labour in Germany, and he was sure that given the opportunity, they would be only too happy to return home and be reunited with the families they had been forced to leave behind. Only a small minority of criminals would not wish to return.
13. In conclusion, he expressed full support for the Byelorussian draft resolution, which appealed to all governments to implement the General Assembly resolution of 12 February 1946 on repatriation, and also to supply full information on the numbers and living conditions of the displaced persons under their jurisdiction.
14. Mr. CONTOUMAS (Greece) said that the United States representative had mentioned in her speech that an ad hoc Committee of the Economic and Social Council might possibly add other categories of refugees to those which were to come under the protection of the United Nations. In that connexion, she had specifically referred to the seven million refugees mentioned by the representative of Pakistan. He hoped that, if the committee in question examined the possible extension of protection to other categories of refugees, it would also consider the case of the 700,000 Greek refugees who had lest their homes in the civil war. That was the formal desire of his government.
15. Mr. DEDIJER (Yugoslavia) believed that his delegation's action in pointing out that certain States were making use of refugees in order to promote their own political aims had called attention to a new category of refugees, who should enjoy the same treatment as those defined in IRO's Constitution. The only sound basis for dealing with the problems of both categories would be the adoption and application by General Assembly - the only body competent to make them internationally mandatory - of the six rules which he had stated at a previous meeting. All Members of the United Nations should assume the obligations deriving from a convention based upon such rules and strictly adhere to them.
16. The USSR Government had contributed to the problem by its breach of the rule which laid down that no State should refuse repatriation to its nationals who were on the territory of a State which refused to continue to grant them hospitality. On 4 June 1946, that Government had granted citizenship to former White Russians, of whom approximately 6,000 were at that time resident in Yugoslavia. Despite a proposal by the Yugoslav Government that they should be repatriated by bilateral agreement and on the most favourable terms however, the USSR Government had refuses to accept them. At the previous meeting, the USSR representative had reiterated that refusal.
17. Those persons had emigrated owing to their political views in 1920 and 1921 and had apparently continued to hold views hostile to the Soviet regime. They had been living in Yugoslavia either as émigrés or as Yugoslav citizens and had not been molested on account of their political beliefs. Nevertheless, the Yugoslav Government in 1946 had welcomed the opportunity to repatriate them.
18. The USSR Government had acknowledged that those persons had become USSR citizens and had sent a large repatriation commission to Yugoslavia, which had established intimate contact with them and had explained to them personally the error of their ways. After three years of such activity, however, only three persons had been repatriated. All the remainder - even including some who had collaborated with the Nazi occupation forces - had received USSR passports after signing a declaration of their loyalty to the Union Soviet Socialist Republics. They had not, however, been repatriated but had been assigned special tasks inside Yugoslavia. The situation had been complicated by the fact that some 3,000 of them were working in the Yugoslav civil service.
19. When the USSR had opened its campaign against the Yugoslav Government, the USSR citizens had been organized in groups, some of which had been instructed to carry on subversive and even criminal activities. The Yugoslav delegation had in its possession documents which it regarded as conclusive proof of that charge.
20. No sovereign State could have remained indifferent to such activities. Thirty former White Russians had been arrested and had been tried on criminal charges. A widespread network of subversive activity had been uncovered. Thereupon, the USSR government had sent a threatening note to the Yugoslav Government, which had replied with a proposal to set the conspirators free, provided that the USSR Government agreed to repatriate them or that they left the country in some other manner. No reply to that proposal had been received. At the previous meeting, however, the USSR representative had demanded that the prisoners should be freed immediately, but should be permitted to remain in Yugoslavia. That demand implied juridically that the USSR Government did not recognized the territorial jurisdiction of the Yugoslav Government over Yugoslav territory and, in fact, that it regarded any arrest of any USSR citizen as illegal. The Yugoslav offer had been stigmatized as an attempt at illegal deportation, which implied that a sovereign State had no right to withdraw its hospitality from undesirable foreigners.
21. It was true that such stipulations had been imposed by the Powers under international law in the past under the name of Capitulations. The last remaining example of such Capitulations had disappeared in 1943, when the Allies had renounced their extraterritorial rights in China. That the USSR itself had always been hostile to such provisions as the exemption of foreigners from the jurisdiction of local courts by Capitulations was shown by the relevant passages in the article on Capitulations in the second edition of the Soviet Encyclopedia. Yugoslavia itself had never been subject to Capitulations.
22. The USSR demand, moreover, was akin to the imperialist policy known as that of the Open Door, which provided exceptional privileges for certain foreigners. Such a policy was not applied in Yugoslavia. Foreigners might settle freely in Yugoslavia, but the Government reserved its sovereign right to exclude or expel undesirables. From the political point of view, the attitude of the USSR Government in that connexion showed, in his opinion, that it did not recognize equality of rights among socialist States.
23. The attitude of the USSR Government was inconsistent with its own statements at all international conferences on the refugee problem for the past four years. The USSR delegation had always advocated that the problem should be solved by the Governments concerned by a policy of unhampered repatriation, particularly with regard to its own nationals. Yet, in an instance in which such repatriation would have been particularly easy, it had flatly refused to consider it. The Yugoslav delegation felt that the United Nations was particularly qualified to examine that dispute because the creation of a new category of refugees might be likely to endanger the maintenance of international peace and security.
24. In its note of 18 August 1949, the USSR Government had asserted that the White Russians concerned had been ill-treated in prison, and had gone on to impugn the character of the Yugoslav Government. Statements by the prisoners themselves and a subsequent medical examination had shown that that charge was not true. But the strongest proof of its untruth had been the readiness of the Yugoslav Government to hand them over to the USSR Government immediately.
25. In the case of the Yugoslav children at USSR military schools, the USSR Government had violated another rule stated at a previous meeting to the effect that no State had the right to detain citizens of another States on its territory when they requested to be repatriated (A/C.3/SR.257, paragraph 66). The representatives of Poland, the Byelorussian SSR and the Ukrainian SSR had stated correctly with regard to Polish children in Canada that children were not competent to decide their own status or choice of domicile. The USSR representative's statement that the children should not be repatriated, simply because they had not formally requested repatriation, appeared to conflict with view expressed by those representatives. Moreover, both in USSR and in Yugoslav law the parents not only decided the domicile of their children, but also had the right to demand their return if they were in the hands of others. Furthermore, the first Committee had set a precedent by deciding that the Greek refugee children should be returned to their parents. The USSR Government was, therefore, disregarding both its own and international basic legal principles.
26. When the USSR representative had referred with approval to a letter written by one of the children to his mother stating that he would not return home so long as existing political conditions continued, he appeared to be associating himself with approval of subversive activities.
27. The artificial creation of a new category of refugees by such hampering of repatriation was peculiarly a problem for international action by the United Nations. The solution could only be international in scope and must embrace both voluntary refugees and those who had become refugees under duress.
28. Mr. AZKOUL (Lebanon) said that, although IRO had accomplished a great and historical achievement, it had also one very serious error. At a time when it should have been concentrating on repatriation, it had sent countless refugees to resettle in Palestine, thereby contravening some of the general principles set forth in its Constitution. It was indeed specified in Annex I to the Organization should make sure that its assistance was not exploited in order to encourage subversive or hostile activities directed against the Government of any State Member of the United Nations. It was also laid down that the Organization should avoid disturbing friendly relations between nations and that special care should be exercises when the resettlement of refugees in non-self-governing countries was contemplated. In such cases, it was stated, due weight should be given to any evidence of genuine apprehension felt in regard to such plans by the indigenous population of the non-self-governing country in question.
29. In its policy of resettling refugees in Palestine, the IRO had consistently violated both those provisions. It could not even be argued that the organization had acted unwittingly. Ever since 1923, the Arab countries had made their position quite clear with regard to immigration into Palestine, and the inhabitants of that non-self-governing country had shown their apprehension not only be words but by deeds. Some might say that the IRO had allowed humanitarian ideals to outweigh the strict provisions of its constitution. It was sufficient to consider the results of the immigration into Palestine to see that humanitarian ideals would have militated against it. For each refugee sent to Palestine ten new ones had been created, and the IRO was directly responsible for the tragic plight of a million Arab refugees.
30. Turning to the other aspects of the work of the IRO, he noted that by the time its activities, it hoped to have provided for the repatriation of resettlement of the vast majority of refugees and displaced persons who still remained in the camps. The chief problem would then be to provide legal protection for the stateless. That was a very important problem, for the development of the modern sovereign State had brought most of man's activities and needs under the direct authority of the State. Thus the position of the stateless in the modern world was extremely difficult. Fortunately, the recognition of the need for closer international relations had increased at the same time; international action could therefore be taken to protect the rights of those who did not come under the special protection of any State. The IRO had already concluded agreements with certain Governments for the legal protection of stateless persons and some new organization would have to be established, when the IRO ceased its activities, in order to assume the responsibilities under those agreements as well as to conclude further agreements where desirable.
31. The new organization would concentrate on providing legal protection for the stateless. Its structure could therefore be very simple and it should have the minimum number of staff. The future would show whether any other work would be required of the organization and arrangements could be made if and when the need arose.
32. It had been suggested that either a special section within the United Nations Secretariat, or a High Commissioner's Office, should be established to deal with the problem. He preferred the latter alternative because the protection of refugees might well involve bitter political controversies in which the United Nations Secretariat should not become implicated. Moreover, a High Commissioner would have a greater degree of autonomy and would thus be able to take action more speedily than the Secretariat. He would have more authority to conclude agreements with Governments and it would be easier for him to enter into negotiations with non-member States. The High Commissioner's Office would have to continue work for as long as the necessity for legal protection of refugees continues and a tentative initial period of four or five years could be tentatively fixed. He fully agreed with the remarks made by the United States representative in so far as the refugees who had come under the Constitution of the IRO were concerned.
33. In the French draft resolution, however, the problem was treated on a more general basis. Conditions had indeed altered in the two years since the establishment of the IRO. There were new categories of refugees who did not come under the protection of the IRO; for example those in Greece, Pakistan, India and China. The refugees in Palestine were a distinct category on their own, for their plight was the direct responsibility of the United Nations. Assistance to refugees was, moreover, no longer simply a humanitarian ideal; it had become a definite duty of the United Nations since the adoption of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights. Article 15, paragraph (1) of that Declaration - a paragraph that had been inserted at the instigation of his delegation - stated: "Everyone has the right to a nationality". Until a formula was found for eliminating statelessness the United Nations should afford legal protection aimed at removing the disabilities arising therefrom. He felt that any resolution the Committee adopted should establish the High Commissioner as the protector of all refugees. For the first few years he could be asked to concentrate on providing legal protection for the special class of refugees covered by IRO, but it should be possible for the United Nations to extend his services to cover all refugees at a later stage.
34. Mr. BOKHARI (Pakistan) thanked the United States representative for replying to the questions he had raised.
35. He had intended to concentrate on the task to be done in the future rather than to dwell on any of the mistakes made by the IRO in the past. Many complaints had, however, been made about the activities of the IRO and he could not but support all that had been said by the representative of Lebanon on the subject of the refugees resettled in Palestine. That action had led to untold misery for countless human beings and had created the very problems which the IRO had set out to solve.
36. With regard to the work of the proposed new organization, it had been stated that it would provide for the legal protection of an unspecified number of stateless persons. It had been suggested that a tentative period of three years should at first be fixed for the duration of the organization but that in all probability a much longer period of time would be required. The process of obtaining naturalization was often extremely lengthy and consequently the work of the new organization might well continue indefinitely. It was unfortunate that the IRO had decided to conclude its activities before completing the task it had set out to accomplish, all the more so as the most expensive part of the work had already been done and what remained would only require a small staff and a far lower level of expenditure. The IRO had already done some work towards providing legal protection for the stateless and the only argument against its continuing that work appeared to be that the co-operation of all the States Members of the United Nations was needed.
37. There was of course no serious objection to the proposal that the United Nations should take over the work hitherto accomplished by IRO. All Member States would naturally approve of the humanitarian task envisage. His country was, however, faced with a far larger refugee problem of its own. There ware between six and seven million refugees in Pakistan in a far worse plight than those covered by the IRO. Although statelessness was a great privation, it was after all the least of the misfortunes to deal with for which the IRO had been set up. If the proposal before the Committee were adopted, Pakistan would have to share in financing the legal protection of an undefined number of refugees in Europe, while obtaining no benefits for the millions of refugees in its own country. He was glad to hear from the United States representative that an ad hoc committee of the Economic and Social Council was to consider the various categories of refugees to be covered by a new draft convention. It would, however, take some time to prepare that draft convention and those suffering from disease and starvation might not live to see its completion.
38. There was no mention in any formal proposal of extending the protection of the new organization to all categories of refugees and he hoped that some concrete amendments would be submitted in order to allay his anxiety.
39. Mr. ROCHEFORT (France) thought that the comments of the Ukrainian representative had shown the need for the widest possible legal protection of the refugees, administered in accordance with the impartial standards characteristic of the IRO. It had been argued that nothing more than consular protection would be required. While that was normally true, there had been cases in which no consulates existed, as, for example, for future Israel citizens before the creation of the State of Israel.
40. The example of Israel threw light on another aspect of the problem - that raised by the Lebanese representative. He must assure that representative that it had never been the intention of France or of the United Nations to take any action prejudicial to the interests or sentiments of the Arab States. The urgent plight of the future Israel citizens, however, had aroused such profound humanitarian feelings that they had been permitted to take precedence of all political considerations. That the United Nations had had only humanitarian intentions had been demonstrated by its subsequent anxiety to assume responsibility for the care of the Arab refugees.
41. It was unthinkable that an organization which had demonstrated such a depth of humanitarian sentiments could possibly have committed the callousness implicit in placing refugee camps under Nazi or fascist administrators, as some representatives had asserted. Future assistance would continue to avoid any such aberrations. That the need for legal protection of the refugees would be a continuing one was shown by the fact that there were currently in France alone some 200,000 such persons, including 70,000 Spanish Republicans denied access to the Franco Spanish consular services.
42. Such considerations might go far towards allaying certain apprehensions which had been expressed during the debate.
The meeting rose at 1.20 p.m.