Statement by Dr. Gerrit Jan van Heuven Goedhart, United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees, at the Meeting of the Third Committee of the United Nations General Assembly, 13 October 1953
Seventy-five to eighty years ago a man from Finland became a refugee. He had lived under the oppression of the Russian Czars and when he could stand it no longer he decided to start on the road to freedom which for him ended in a country, still in our days known for its hospitality towards people who have no fatherland: France. There he found all the freedom of expression which he lacked in his own country and to that we owe a little book which earned him some fame. This book is preceded by a motto that I would like to use now that I am presenting this item to your Committee. The title of the book is "La Finlande independente et neutre" - "Independent and Neutral Finland", and the motto reads: "Pour comprendre le présent et ne pas être surpris par l'avenir, il faut étudier le passé" - "In order to understand what happens and not to be taken by surprise by what may happen, one has to study the past". I submit that that motto applies to my office which has now been operating for three years and is nearing the end of its term. Let us look back in order to understand what has been done so that we may take adequate decisions concerning what has to be done in the future.
When the General Assembly discussed the establishment of an office for refugees there were two possible extremes, one being to confine that office to legal protection of refugees only, and the other to create something similar to the International Refugee Organization which had been a big operational agency. Traces of those two trends are to be found in the debates of that time and the end was a compromise. When we look into the debates of that year we find the Delegate from Mexico who said: "The U.N. would become responsible for the protection of refugees after the IRO had ceased to function. Its task was to find how to reconcile the moral and material aspects of the problem so as to establish the most suitable machinery for truly constructive work".
Mrs. Roosevelt, speaking for the U.S. Delegation said: "Refugees who had not acquired the nationality of their country of refuge were faced with many obstacles which often prevented them from leading a normal life. They must be guaranteed security and a permanent stay in the host country and they must be given an opportunity of employment and of educating their children. In addition they must be provided with the necessary legal protection, given identity documents, travel papers, and so on. The High Commissioner would be responsible for those matters".
And the Delegate for France, who in debates on refugees used to be very outspoken, stated that it was the belief of the French Delegation that protection and assistance constituted one whole. "Legal protection, in the guise of a passport for instance, would be of little use to people who were blind, tubercular, or starving".
When, thereafter, the matter was discussed in the Economic and Social Council at its Eleventh Session in 1950, there was on the table a French proposal reading: "It shall be the duty of the High Commissioner for Refugees to provide international protection for the refugees falling under his competence and to seek a final solution of the problems of such refugees either by facilitating their voluntary repatriation or by facilitating their assimilation within their new national community". The American delegation rightly pointed out that it might be better instead of "a final solution" to speak of "permanent solutions" and it was with that amendment that the article finally passed through the General Assembly of 1950-51.
The basic articles of the Statute are Articles 1 and 8. Article 1 reads: "The United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees, acting under the authority of the General Assembly, shall assume the function of providing international protection, under the auspices of the United Nations, to refugees who fall within the scope of the present Statute and of seeking permanent solutions for the problem of refugees by assisting governments and, subject to the approval of the governments concerned, private organizations to facilitate the voluntary repatriation of such refugees, or their assimilation within new national communities". This article is spelled out in Article 8, the relevant paragraphs of which read: "The High Commissioner shall provide for the protection of refugees falling under the competence of his Office by (1) promoting the conclusion and ratification of international conventions for the protection of refugees, supervising their application and proposing amendments thereto; (2) promoting through special agreements with governments the execution of any measures calculated to improve the situation of refugees and to reduce the number requiring protection; (3) assisting governmental and private efforts to promote voluntary repatriation or assimilation within new national communities; (4) promoting the admission of refugees, not excluding those in the most destitute categories, to the territories of states; (5) facilitating to co-ordination of the efforts of private organizations concerned with the welfare of refugees".
However, Mr. Chairman, in the field of assistance to refugees there was still one reservation left, which was in Article 10, para. 3 of the Statute where it states: "The High Commissioner shall not appeal to governments for funds or make a general appeal without the prior approval of the General Assembly". The basis for the work of the Office was therefore only completed when the General Assembly adopted Resolution 538 (VI), the operative part of which reads as follows: "(1) Authorizes the High Commissioner under para. 10 of the Statute of his Office to issue an appeal for funds for the purpose of enabling emergency aid to be given to the most needy groups among refugees within his mandate. (2) Recommends all states directly affected by the refugee problem as well as the appropriate specialized agencies and other intergovernmental agencies concerned to pay special attention to this problem when drawing up and executing programmes of economic reconstruction and development, and requests the High Commissioner to contribute to the promotion of activities in this field, paying due regard to the desirability of repatriating to their countries of origin refugees who express the desire to return there. (3) Appeals to states interested in migration to give to refugees within the mandate of the High Commissioner every possible opportunity to participate in and benefit from projects to promote migration".
I do submit, Mr. Chairman, that this was a useful compromise which still left some major differences between the IRO and the new Office. The IRO had a big operational task whereas the Office of the High Commissioner is non-operational. On the other hand, the mandate of this Office is wider than was that of the IRO inasmuch as it does not know of any dateline or of geographical limitations. So far, Mr. Chairman, I have been speaking about the documents establishing the foundations of the Office, but I am in a hurry to warn this Committee as well as myself to be aware of the fact that behind those documents are the refugees - those who try to join the order of freedom which is the order of the United Nations.
Refugees - those who try to join the order of freedom which is the order of the United Nations.
Both the refugees and the free would make sacrifices. The refugee's sacrifice is to leave behind all that was dear to him for the sake of what he believes, our sacrifice is to receive the refugee in an adequate manner. There can be no doubt whatsoever as to which of those sacrifices is the bigger one. At an early stage my colleagues, only a few at that time, and I myself came to the conclusion that what we needed was a headquarters office and branch offices in the countries of residence of the refugees, and in the three years that have gone by we have noted not only how necessary such a structure is but also that it needs to be flexible in accordance with the character of the refugee problem itself. That problem is by no means a static problem, its aspects change frequently and it is therefore indispensable to be able to adjust the structure of the Office to the necessities of the situation. I only need to refer to the recent news of possible changes in the status of the town of Trieste in order to make it clear that those changes may well affect the life of some 5,000 refugees living there and may, therefore, require changes being made in the structure of my Office so as to enable it to cope with the new situation.
But let me go back, Mr. Chairman, to the day when I started my office early in January, 1951, when I found three empty rooms and a secretary in the Palais des Nations in Geneva and had to start from scratch. I have no desire whatsoever to conceal from this Committee that, in particular in the administrative field, I have made mistakes, and that I have not always acted in full conformity with the fairly complicated procedures which govern the United Nations administration. I am not ashamed of my ignorance of those days and submit that wherever work is being done, mistakes are bound to be made. However, my administration is now fully integrated into the machinery of the Geneva Office of the United Nations and I can only speak in the highest terms of the co-operation which, in all administrative matters, I receive from the Geneva staff. I need that co-operation, Mr. Chairman, since I have no time and no skill to concern myself continually with those matters. The work itself and the task to be performed are enormous. If I only list a few of the problems which are involved in it, mentioning the camp situation, the difficult cases, the legal protection, the co-operation with voluntary agencies and intergovernmental bodies, the contacts with governments, the problem of the records of refugees to be preserved in various areas, the difficulties of unaccompanied children who need to be looked after, then it may be clear that what we call "the refugee problem" falls apart in many problems requiring continuous attention. All the work being done in my Office is performed by 99 people. That number includes myself and the Deputy High Commissioner, as well as the huissier in Geneva and also all the personnel of our branch offices. We have, in fact, been trying to do a lot with a little and I cannot deny that I felt somewhat proud when Mr. Elfan Rees, in writing an excellent pamphlet on the Refugee and the United Nations, which was published under the auspices of the Carnegie Endowment Fund, wrote: "The High Commissioner early decided that the necessary tools for doing the job which had been entrusted to his Office by the General Assembly were a small team at Geneva of highly qualified collaborators, devoted to the cause of refugees, and field offices, each of them small but efficient, through which he could maintain direct contact with the governments as well as with the refugees themselves and also with the voluntary agencies working to their behalf. This initial task had been progressively achieved and in addition to the headquarters in Geneva the Office today has twelve branch offices. The total administrative budget of the Office, approved for 1953, is $729,000. The total number of persons of all grades employed is 99. It is some time since so few have been asked to do so much for so many on so little."
... the day when I started my office early in January, 1951, I found three empty rooms and a secretary in the Palais des Nations in Geneva.
Now that I am nearing the end of my term I fell that it is incumbent upon me to state in front of this Committee how proud I am and how grateful of have received so much co-operation from so many excellent collaborators of all grades. I am unable, Mr. Chairman, to find the words with which to express what a privilege it has been to me to have been associated with so many excellent people.
I do not think it would serve any purpose if I were to try to summarize the Annual Report which is before the members of the Committee. I do, however, feel that it may be useful to make a few selections and give a few amplifications to that Report which had to be submitted early in this year. That may help the Committee to get the full picture of where the major difficulties are to be found. It does not seem to be necessary to speak at great length about legal protection of refugees which is by all means one of the most important aspects of the international protection which my Office is called upon to provide. In that field of legal protection the outstanding event has been the diplomatic conference on the Convention on the Status of Refugees held in Geneva in 1951. The situation with regard to ratifications of that Convention is today that we have five ratifications out of the six which are necessary to bring the Convention into force. The countries which have ratified the Convention are: Denmark, Norway, Belgium, Luxembourg, and Germany, and it will be understood how much my colleagues and I myself hope that the sixth ratification will come about soon. In that connection, I can report that various parliaments have the ratification of the Convention on their agenda and it may therefore well be that even in 1953 the Convention will come into force. Apart from the Convention, we have in the course of three years concluded some special agreements with governments and since I have in previous reports elaborated on those agreements, I do not think I should go into the details of them now. I should like just to mention one arrangement which we had to make in connection with the ordinance issued in January of this year by the German Government dealing with the regularization of the status of refugees who came into Germany after June, 1950, which is the dateline for the Homeless Foreigners Act. Refugees who came after that date did not benefit from that Act and since three years have elapsed between the dateline and the ordinance, there is a considerable backlog which makes it certain that the committee which is called upon to review the refugees under the ordinance will have to sit at Nuremberg for two more years to come. My Office is represented by an observer at the hearings of that committee and here again we have an example of the necessity of having a flexible structure of the Office without which I would get into major difficulties.
Having said this about legal protection of refugees, I would like to turn to what I consider to be one of the most tragic aspects of the refugee problem: the assistance to the most needy groups of refugees. However, before doing that, I might, for the sake of clarity, say a few words about the budgetary situation of the Office since I still meet a good many times with people who think that I can finance emergency aid to refugees from the United Nations budget. As the members of this Committee know, the United Nations provides only for the administrative expenses of the Office. Not one dollar of the United Nations budget is spent on assistance to any refugee. I am not going to explain in this Committee the sad story of the administrative budget of my Office, a story which began with what I would like to call a vitium originis. At the end of 1950, no one could have any idea about what this Office would need and it was then decided, taking into account that the IRO was still operating, to provide for an amount of $300,000 for the first administrative year. This, Mr. Chairman, was by no means a budget but a guess out of a hat, and when I then submitted a budget of over $600,000 for the second year, there was the feeling that I was asking for "twice as much" as I had been given before. Through all the three years. I have suffered from the comparison between a guess and a budget, and I can only feel sorry that the guess was not considerably higher. However, as I said, this has no bearing on the situation of the needy groups of refugees since all the money for their assistance has to come from voluntary contributions and is not provided by the United Nations themselves.
No one could have any idea about what this Office would need ... $300,000 for the first administrative year ... was by no means a budget but a guess out of a hat.
When I speak about these needy groups, my thoughts go immediately to one group which in the estimate of my colleagues and myself, constitutes priority number one. It is the group of refugees of European origin now in China, mainly in and around Shanghai. For the sake of clarity, I would like to deal with the various aspects of our operation in that area, although part of it does not come under the heading "assistance to needy groups of refugees". As far as we can make out, there are in that part of China roughly 15,000 refugees of European origin and of those 1,200 are at the present time completely dependent on the United Nations for their daily life. In the operation which we carry out jointly with the Intergovernmental Committee on European Migration, $25,000 a month are required for the maintenance of destitute refugees. They have to be found from what we call the United Nations Refugee Emergency Fund, established under Resolution 538 of the General Assembly. I want to explain the financial position of the United Nations Refugee Emergency Fund in full in order to make clear why it is that I am so deeply worried about the position of the European refugees in Shanghai. In fact I want to put it bluntly on the table of this Committee that I do not know from where to finance the maintenance of that group after the 1st of January of next year. The funds which I have put aside for that purpose make it possible to continue operation for another two and a half months, which means that unless new contributions are forthcoming I will have to discontinue this programme after that date. The resettlement aspect of the operation is, I am glad to say, at present more encouraging than it was a year ago. In fact, during the last nineteen months we have been able, in co-operation with the Intergovernmental Committee on European Migration, to find resettlement opportunities for 2,975 of these refugees, and I would like to list those countries which have admitted the major part of these refugees. Topping the list is Brazil which accepted not less than 1,351 from that group, which comes near to 50% of the total resettled so far; thereafter comes Australia with 577, Canada with 199, Turkey with 180, and Israel with 169. For the sake of brevity I shall not list all the other countries which contributed to the success of the resettlement operation in this area, but I do want to pay tribute to these countries which by being ready to receive these refugees have helped us solve one of the most difficult problems in the field of our activities. In the movement from Shanghai to Hong Kong we have used the device of what we call the alternative visas. A technique, the details of which I do not think I should explain here, but I want to stress that what is really needed are end-visas which guarantee the refugee admission to the countries which issue them. But, Mr. Chairman, even if we were optimistic enough to believe that we may in the next few years to come be able to find resettlement opportunities for these refugees to the extent of three to five thousand per year, the operation still would have to be continued for another three to five years. This, I think, is hardly realistic.
I now go back, Mr. Chairman, to assistance to the most needy groups of refugees to which I referred already when I reminded this Committee of the fact that 1,200 of the European refugees in Shanghai depend entirely on the assistance of the United Nations. In Shanghai there is a group which I would like to call "difficult cases", a term which is the translation of "cas difficiles" in French and which I prefer to the term "hard core", which I think is an inhuman term. I hope this Committee will help me to fight the use of that term "hard core" which, in my opinion, should be abolished altogether. The number of difficult cases in the Shanghai area is 660, but fortunately I can now deduct 227 from that number, since we have made and are still making special efforts to solve those cases by finding countries ready to accept them in their territories. For these we take up contacts with governments and private organizations, trying to persuade them to accept responsibility for these refugees for their lifetime. That goes together, not always, but normally, with offering to governments grants for the maintenance of these refugees, grants which usually are not big enough to cover the estimated period of time during which the case has to be taken care of, but which make, nevertheless, it possible to finance the maintenance of these refugees for some period of time. The 227 cases which we have been able to solve on this basis have involved an expenditure of $310 per capita. I am extremely sorry, Mr. Chairman, to give the impression of dealing with needy refugees as if they were a merchandise but when we overlook all the other aspects of the operation, that is, in fact, what I am doing. Since the money available for solving these problems is by no means sufficient, I am extremely grateful to those governments which, as did for instance the Danish Government, declared that they were not interested in grants and only wanted to help these poor people. It is a striking feature of the problem of the difficult cases, and now I am not confining myself only to Shanghai, that they are practically accepted by European countries alone. So far it has been difficult, if at all possible, to find countries of resettlement ready to accept difficult cases and this is all the more a reason for serious concern since we are reaching the point where we do not know whether we can appeal again to those countries which have already demonstrated their humanitarian interest in the problem of the difficult cases. As regards the 227 from Shanghai, the countries which have made possible the solution for their difficulties were: Norway, Sweden, Denmark, the Netherlands, Belgium, France, and Switzerland. I would like to pay high tribute to the governments of these countries for what they have been willing to do in this matter. Meanwhile, Mr. Chairman, one cannot prevent refugees from growing old and sick. Those who are still valid refugees today may well fall within the category of difficult cases tomorrow. In this respect, the refugee problem is a dynamic problem and, moreover, the difficult cases are not only to be found in Shanghai. That problem is met in Austria, where we are concerned with the application of the agreements which were made between the IRO and the Austrian Government. These agreements did not take adequately into account the dynamic character of the problem in that they do not provide for the admission of new cases of refugees to the three existing institutions to which grants were made by the IRO. The cases which existed at the time of the agreements have been taken care of, but there is no provision for admission of new cases when vacancies make such admission possible. It is all very well to expect my Office to negotiate with the Austrian Government and we will gladly make an effort to do it, but let us not forget that a man who negotiates with empty hands is always in an extremely weak position. There is, moreover, a large group of refugees in Austria - the so-called Volksdeutsche - among which we do not know exactly the number of difficult cases. We are at present making an effort to ascertain what exactly the number is. In passing, I may emphasize that this problem of the Volksdeutsche requires more than legal protection for their assistance. Nevertheless, in Austria legal protection remains an extremely important matter for the alien refugees.
The difficult cases are to be found not only in Shanghai and in Austria, they are also to be found in the Middle and Near East, in Turkey, in Greece, in Italy, and in Germany. I am not going to elaborate on all these groups, although I want to stress that the extremely heavy burden of the Palestine refugee problem on the countries of the Near East makes it all the more difficult for the governments in that area to concern themselves with needy refugees of different origin. I could easily speak for another half hour about the various aspects of the problems of the difficult cases, but I do not think that I should take so much of the time of this Committee. There is, however, one more problem of difficult cases about which a few words should be said, it is the problem which we have to face in Trieste. Trieste knows of more than 1,400 difficult cases, a number which includes the family members. Even the use of the full million dollars which has been put at the disposal of the Intergovernmental Committee for European Migration for the solution of the Trieste problem of difficult cases will, I am afraid, not bring that problem to its final solution, since so far the Committee has had to use not less than $1,154 on average per capita to arrive at a solution for these cases. In this connection it would be proper, I think for me to say a few words about the co-operation with the voluntary agencies in that matter. I would like to make my position entirely clear. I do claim that if there is one man who has the greatest regard and admiration for what voluntary agencies do for refugees, it is the man who is at present speaking to you. If, nonetheless, I have always stressed the necessity of supervision of the methods of spending international money which is available for the solution of refugee problems, I did not do so for any lack of confidence in my friends of the voluntary agencies. I only took that position because there is always a case for good bookkeeping and much wisdom in the French saying "Les bons comptes font les bons amis". I do not think that it is justifiable to spend international money without international control on how it is done, and I have no doubt that my friends of the voluntary agencies have full understanding for the position which I take in regard to that matter.
If you look at the number of refugees entirely dependent on funds provided by the United Nations, and if you add all those difficult cases in Shanghai, the Middle East, the Near East, Greece, Turkey, Italy, Austria, and Germany, you will not have the full picture of the needs which have to be covered from the funds in the United Nations Refugee Emergency Fund. There are other spots in the world where some additional food, some milk for children, some medical supplies are essential for needy groups of refugees, and when I now turn to the financial position of the Fund I have to state quite bluntly that on the 15th of September of this year the balance left after deduction of all that has been spent or allocated was $4235. As I have pointed out, I have included in this figure the costs of the Shanghai operation for the rest of 1953. I repeat that all that is at present still available for allocation to the needs of the most needy groups of refugees within the mandate of the Office is $4235. That means, Mr. Chairman, that the situation of those needy groups really is precarious, and that I just do not know what I will have to do when the 1st of January of 1954 comes. For completeness' sake I want to add that the United Nations do not pay any expenses connected with the administration of the Fund. The administrative expenses are charged to the Fund itself. They total $13,673, which is one and one quarter per cent. If you add some expenditure which we made for fund raising, the total is $19,343, which is roughly one and three quarters per cent.
Having spoken about the sad story of the difficult cases and the United Nations Refugee Emergency Fund, I now turn to an even more sad story, the story of the forgotten people, those refugees, more than 100,000, who are still living in over 200 camps. It does not require much imagination to see how these people live. Their wooden barracks were not built for accommodating people for a long period of time, and gradually some of the camps have become entirely unsuitable for housing human beings. I hope that the Committee will realize that, whereas in Germany there are still some 40,000 refugees under my mandate living in camps, there are another 300,000 refugees in camps in Germany who are not the concern of my Office. This means that only in Germany one third of a million people live in camps. Because I considered that situation to be extremely grave, I felt compelled to forestall further aggravation of it caused by the tremendous influx of refugees from the Eastern Zone of Germany into West Berlin. That is the justification for the appeal which I made early this year in order to alleviate that situation. Somewhat later in this statement I would like to produce a few figures which will make clear in what brackets one has to think when it comes to solving the camp problem which is essentially a problem of housing. At this stage I would like to tell this Committee that we have developed what we call a camp-adoption scheme. We are aware of the fact that there are hundreds of thousands of people in the world who would like to do their share in trying to cope with the problem of refugees still living in camps and our idea is to establish links between needy camps and local communities in countries other than those where the camps are located. I should like also to mention that I have asked the World Health Organization to make an investigation of the impact which camp life has in particular on young refugees.
There is little more to be said about resettlement than what is in the Report. Once in a while I have been accused of being against resettlement of refugees. Mr. Chairman, I allow myself to laugh at that criticism since it would be a waste of energy to get angry about it. I am fully aware of the fact that for a refugee who does not want not be repatriated, in which case we gladly facilitate his going home, the preference is resettlement overseas, and I can only hope that many more resettlement opportunities for refugees will become available. Since my Report confines itself mainly to those countries where our Office is represented, it does not contain adequate reference to countries which play a major part in resettlement. Canada, Australia, and New Zealand still provide a good many openings for resettlement, but all in all the possibilities are limited for resettlement of refugees. The new law enacted in the United States, Public Law 203, the Refugees Relief Act, provides for some 55,000 refugees within the mandate of my Office. This is a considerable number although the administrative procedures of the law may cause some difficulties. In particular the requirements of an individual sponsorship and a continuous two-year clear record, may create difficulties for some of the refugees who would like to qualify for the new programme. I hope that the law will be liberally applied and that, if any prove necessary, modifications of its administrative procedures will be considered. Whatever the opportunities in the field of resettlement are, there is no doubt for very many refugees the only possible solution, whether they like it or not, will be their integration or assimilation in their countries of present residence. It is in this connection that I want to express again my deep gratitude to Ford Foundation for its grant of $2,900,000, of which amount on September the 15th $2,690,000 had been allocated on a project basis. I stress the words, on a project basis. They mean that we have agreed with the voluntary agency concerned as to where and for what purpose every dollar allocated would be spent. A tremendous amount of work had been involved in that operation, and I do want to avail myself of this opportunity to express my gratitude not only to the voluntary agencies that have shown such an excellent spirit of co-operation, but also to those members of my staff who have devoted themselves to this part of our work. Here again no costs for the United Nations are involved since all administrative expenditures are being charged to the grant itself. Under the terms of the grant I am authorized to spend up to 2%, that is $58,000, for administrative purposes. Actually, I will have spent less than 1% in administrative expenses in a full year. The aim of the grant is to make new approaches to the solution of refugee problems and to be a stimulus for others. The grant had, in fact, meant much more than its own total, and that for three reasons. First of all, when we had spent $1,660,000 from the Ford grant, the outside financing added to this amounted already to $7,204,000. Secondly, we apply wherever possible the principle of "revolving". We give loans to refugees and can, therefore, use the money more than once. Finally, we have been able, in particular in Germany, where over a million dollars of the grant are being spent, to make use of Sperrmarks which we can obtain at a rate of 7-1 to the dollar, as compared with the official exchange rate of 4-1. This means that as far as Germany is concerned we have been able to increase the amount available in Deutschmarks by nearly 40%. Hundreds of thousands of refugees benefit from the Ford projects. They cover a wide range of activities in the fields of vocational training, establishment of youth centres, social assimilation, and agricultural integration. There is project to which I would like to draw particular attention.
Whatever the opportunities in the field of resettlement are, there is no doubt for very many refugees the only possible solution, whether they like it or not, will be their integration or assimilation in their countries of present residence.
On the 2nd of August of this year I had the privilege of opening at Wolfach, near Stuttgart, a housing settlement based on ideas which had been advocated by Dr. Gerstenmaier, a member of the German delegation to the Consultative Assembly of the Council of Europe in Strasbourg. A new type of a house, accommodating four people, preferably a couple with two children has been developed and, incredible as it may seem, these houses with built-in furniture can be built at a cost of 5000 Deutschmarks per house, which at Sperrmark rate amounts to some $750. If you would allow me, Mr. Chairman, to dream aloud for a moment, a loan of $10,000,000 for which an interest of four and a half per cent could easily be paid, would solve the problem of all the refugees within the mandate of my Office who are still living in camps in Germany. The Committee will have an opportunity of seeing for itself on or about the 20th of October an exhibition of work on behalf of refugees which has been arranged at my request by the Department of Public Information. The Secretary-General who, I am glad to say, takes a keen personal interest in the refugee problem, has agreed to speak at the opening of the exhibition, to which all the members of this Committee will be cordially invited. They will find there a model of the Wolfach housing settlement and have an opportunity to judge how much this new type of house can contribute to the solution of the problem of the forgotten refugees. On the whole, it can be said that the idea of integration is striking root. The Austrian Government has requested and obtained and obtained the release of 10,000,000 schilling counterpart funds for a programme of integration in the agricultural sector and a second request for such a release will most probably be made. Moreover, the Austrian Government has tentatively approached the World Bank on the possibility of a loan which would make possible further efforts in the integration field. The finding of funds for integration is still a major problem. It seems that direct financing through the machinery of the World Bank does not come within its scope. The solution may have to be found in the direction of general development loans from which refugees will benefit. I addition, there will have to be special financing from national resources.
Before drawing a few conclusions, I would like, Mr. Chairman, to turn to two specific problems which I have had to face during the last few months. In April of this year I had the privilege of visiting Yugoslavia. Three specific points have been discussed between the Yugoslav Government and my Office. One is the opportunity for family members of Yugoslav refugees, who express the wish, to join them in their countries of residence. I am glad to report that the Yugoslav Government will not put obstacles in the way of those who want to do that. The second point relates to the deep concern of the Yugoslav Government, a concern which I understand so well, for those Yugoslav children whose parents are still alive and who have not yet returned to their country. My Office will make every possible effort to locate these children. The last point was the repatriation of those Yugoslav refugees who have expressed the desire to go back to their country. The difficulty in that matter is that for such repatriation no international funds are available at the present time.
The second problem is that of the Chinese refugees in the Hong Kong area. In the Report to the April session of this year of my Advisory Committee, the Committee recommended "that an investigation of the position and of the possibilities of the solution of the problem of the Chinese refugees in Hong Kong be made by the High Commissioner in co-operation with the authorities in Hong Kong, from his own budget or other resources, available for this purpose." The Advisory Committee asked me, furthermore, to report on this investigation to its members as soon as practicable. Since I had no resources of my own available for this purpose, I had to make an effort to find them somewhere else. I can now report to this Committee that, although no final decision has as yet been taken, it is reasonable to expect that within a few days the necessary funds will have been made available. If that is so, I will expedite the investigation to the best of my ability, and can only express my regret for any delay which has occurred in respect of this investigation.
Mr. Chairman, in accordance with the good advice reproduced in the little book of the refugee from Finland of seventy-five years ago, "nous avons étudié le passé". Which are the lessons that can be drawn from it in order that we may not be taken by surprise by what may happen? I would like to submit to this Committee six conclusions which I have written down and which I now would like to read:
I. The refugee problem has its roots in war, tyranny, persecution and discrimination, all of which are matters of primary interest to the United Nations. Its solution would greatly contribute to the alleviation of existing tensions by restoring for hundreds of thousands of people the dignity of human life and their basic human rights, which are also matters of primary interest to the United Nations. A solution of the refugee problem requires the co-operation in a co-ordinated manner between the countries of first and second asylum and those of resettlement. For the achievement of their co-operation the United Nations are the only appropriate machinery. Therefore the refugee problem, from the viewpoints of background, character and methods of solution, is typically a United Nations problem, and in fact one of the most urgent United Nations problems.
A solution of the refugee problem requires the co-operation in a co-ordinated manner between the countries of first and second asylum and those of resettlement. For the achievement of their co-operation the United Nations are the only appropriate machinery.
II. A non-operational UN agency for refugees has proved its usefulness and can work efficiently, but to do this it needs to be allowed, as is the present Office, to look at all aspects of the refugee problem, since they are all related to each other and in reality inseparable. Restriction to one aspect, e.g. legal protection, would have crippled the Office from the outset. Experience has shown that the compromise which the General Assembly accepted in 1950 in respect of the competence of the Office was a wise decision.
III. In view of the non-operational character of the UN office concerned with refugees its co-ordinating role is all the more important. The present arrangements enable the Office to have an overall view of the various activities being undertaken on behalf of refugees. If the Office were consulted prior to the launching of any programme of international action on behalf of refugees, there would be a considerable increase in the efficiency of the work done. The refugees do not require any new machinery to be established for their benefit, but a better use of existing machinery.
IV. The tremendous number and complexity of post-war problems prevent governments from dealing with all of them at Cabinet level. In the refugee field this development, at the same time unavoidable and regrettable, has accounted for what seems to be a serious underestimation of the importance of the problems which have to be faced. It would be a step forward if governments would see their way to give attention at a higher level to refugee problems.
V. If any solutions are to be found for the refugee problem, an element of long-term planning is required. Neither the refugees nor governments nor the work of the Office have any benefit from arrangements, under which the Office has every two years to prepare for its possible liquidation. If really constructive work is to be done, five years seems to be the minimum period for the duration of the Office.
VI. For many thousands of refugees within the mandate of this Office of the United Nations the living conditions are nearly desperate. The uncertainty about the availability of funds to finance emergency aid for the most needy groups of refugees makes their situation continually precarious. This is out of line with what the United Nations owe both to the refugees and to themselves - moreover, it threatens to frustrate part of the constructive work which the United Nations have shown that they want to perform.
Mr. Chairman, it is my hope that the discussion which this Committee is going to have will focus on those substantial refugee problems to which I have referred in the course of my statement. Problems such as the United Nations Refugee Emergency Fund position, co-ordination, the camp situation, the difficult cases, but above all I hope that that discussion will focus on the refugee himself, the man with the little bundle on his shoulders who has chosen the road to freedom. For every refugee that bundle, poor as it may be, is nearly unbearably heavy, since it always contains the tremendous decision to sacrifice all he had for the sake of what he believes. But on other hand the refugee carries his bundle lightly because it also contains his hope that at the end of the road he will find the doors to freedom and peace wide open. What, Mr. Chairman, is peace? A religious man has said that it is not the absence of war but the presence of God. I am not going analyze the theology and philosophy behind that definition. It is, however, clear that in our times the concept of peace is as total as the concept of war. That, I think is clearly brought out in the wide range of the concerns of the United Nations in the economic, social, cultural, and humanitarian fields. For the refugee, total peace means exactly what it means for everyone else: freedom to believe, and freedom to speak, freedom from fear and freedom from want, and, finally, a chance at building up for himself and his family an existence worthy of a human being. There would be something basically wrong with the free world on the entrance to which one would read Dante's "Lasciate ogni speranza voi ch'entrate" - "Abandon all hope, you who enter here". On the gates to freedom two words only are appropriate: "Pax intrantibus" - "Peace be with you who enter here".
It will, I hope, be in that spirit that this Committee will discuss the issues involved in the item before it.