511.1 C 1/7

The Secretary General of the League of Nations (Drummond) to the Secretary of State

C.L. 72. 1924

Sir: The Council of the League of Nations, at its meeting on September 28th last, had its attention called to the situation of some [Page 85]thousands of Armenian refugees in various countries who are gravely handicapped by the lack of any documents enabling them to establish their identity, or to travel freely in pursuance of their normal occupations.

In its desire to contribute towards the removal of this disability, the Council requested Dr. Nansen, the High Commissioner for refugees,

“to consider the possibility of having the necessary arrangements made for the issue of identity certificates to Armenian refugees.”

Dr. Nansen has made a careful study of this problem, in consultation with the Secretariat of the League and with representatives of the refugees, and has reached the conclusion that effect could best be given to the Council’s recommendation by the general adoption by interested governments of a form of certificate for Armenian refugees identical, mutatis mutandis, with the certificates established for Russian refugees under the Arrangement concluded at Geneva on July 3rd–5th, 1922.

The thirty-five States shown in the annexed list66—two of which, Germany and Mexico, are not Members of the League—are now parties to the Geneva Arrangement which has, in practice, yielded very satisfactory results. The principles laid down in the Arrangement would, it is thought, apply, with only minor modifications, to the proposed certificate for Armenian refugees.

In response to a communication enquiring whether, in the event of an inter-governmental conference being convened to consider the present question, it would be willing to send a representative, the Turkish Government has stated that there is no reason for it to take part in any arrangements concerning Armenian refugees as there are no such refugees from other countries in Turkey.

Dr. Nansen has prepared, and at his request I forward to you for consideration by your Government, a plan for the introduction, by agreement between interested governments, of an identity certificate for Armenian refugees.67

The plan contains similar rules to those laid down in the Geneva Arrangement relating to Russian refugees and the certificate is substantially identical with the certificate now employed for the latter. The only modification made is the insertion on the certificate of a space authorising its use for the purpose of returning to the country issuing it and the inclusion in the plan of a recommendation that such authorisation should be given if possible. This modification, [Page 86]which in no way binds the hands of any government which may participate in the plan, is made because Dr. Nansen’s experience has convinced him of the great importance of facilitating, as far as possible, free movement by refugees.

It has been found that if the refugee certificate authorises return to the issuing country, the economic position of the holder is improved by the facilities which he thus obtains for visiting temporarily other countries, which may offer him opportunities for employment or business, and his ultimate emigration to another country is in fact encouraged. It is thought that it would be very advantageous if governments felt themselves able to agree in principle to grant the right of return when issuing the refugee certificate. Dr. Nansen has not, however, ventured to make the certificate available for return in all cases.

The plan has been framed in a form which makes it possible for it to be brought into operation, without the convening of a special conference, through notification to me of the desire of individual governments to accede to it. If this method of solving the problem is found feasible, a saving of time and expense would be effected; and, in view of the practical identity of the present proposal with the Arrangement for Russian refugees made at Geneva, which was drawn up in careful consultation by a Conference of government representatives, and which has already secured the adhesion of so many States, it is thought possible that the governments interested will not consider a discussion necessary.

Should, however, the interested governments consider that the present matter requires discussion, no difficulty is anticipated in convening a meeting of representatives for this purpose.

Dr. Nansen desires me to emphasise that the object in view is solely to secure the provision to Armenian refugees of an identity certificate, and not in any way to prejudice any question as to their national status.

The Arrangement of Geneva relating to Russian refugees and the certificate issuable under that Arrangement was circulated in Document C. L. 79. 1922.

I have the honour to ask whether your Government would consider the present communication and the enclosed plan by Dr. Nansen and communicate to me, for Dr. Nansen’s information, at an early date its decision as to whether it is disposed to adopt the plan submitted, without the convening of a special meeting or whether it thinks it necessary that such a meeting should be held.

I have [etc.]

Eric Drummond
  1. Not printed.
  2. Plan not printed.