840.48 Refugees/2–1446: Circular airgram

The Secretary of State to Certain Diplomatic and Consular Officers 40


General Assembly of United Nations now in session at London has voted that the Economic and Social Council establish a special committee to examine the problem of refugees and displaced persons in all its aspects and to report to the second part of the first session of the General Assembly.41 Action on problem at current meeting was initiated by original British proposal that work for refugees and displaced persons should be incorporated as an executive function of United Nations. US position was that current session of United Nations should not take up substantive questions but should be devoted exclusively to matters of organization. UK position was supported by the Netherlands. UK and the Netherlands finally accepted US view and draft of resolution which became US proposal. US proposal, [Page 136] modified by inclusion of acceptable features of separate Yugoslav and Soviet proposals, finally prevailed in Committee42 as follows:

“The General Assembly recognizing that the problem of refugees and displaced persons of all categories is one of immediate urgency and recognizing the necessity of clearly distinguishing between genuine refugees and displaced persons, on the one hand, and the war criminals, quislings, and traitors referred to in paragraph (D) below, on the other:

Decides to refer this problem to the Economic and Social Council for thorough examination in all its aspects under item ten of the agenda for the first session of the Council and for report to the second part of the first session of the General Assembly;
Recommends to the Economic and Social Council that it establish a special committee for the purpose of carrying out promptly the examination and preparation of the report referred to in paragraph (A); and
Recommends to the Economic and Social Council to take into consideration in this matter the following principles:
This problem is international in scope and nature.
No refugees or displaced persons who have finally and definitely, in complete freedom, and after receiving full knowledge of the facts including adequate information from the governments of their countries of origin, expressed valid objection to returning to their countries of origin and who do not come within the provisions of paragraph (D) below, shall be compelled to return to their country of origin. The future of such refugees or displaced persons shall become the concern of whatever international body may be recognized or established as a result of the report referred to in paragraphs (A) and (B) above, except in cases where the government of the country where they are established has made an arrangement with this body to assume the complete cost of their maintenance and the responsibility for their protection.
The main task concerning displaced persons is to encourage and assist in every way possible their early return to their countries of origin. Such assistance may take the form of promoting the conclusion of bilateral arrangements for mutual assistance in the repatriation of such persons, having regard to the principles laid down in paragraph (C) (II).
Considers that no action taken as a result of this resolution shall be of such a character as to interfere in any way with the surrender and punishment of war criminals, quislings and traitors, in conformity with present or future international arrangements or agreements.
Considers that Germans being transferred to Germany from other states or who fled to other states from Allied troops, do not fall under the action of this declaration insofar as their situation may be decided by Allied forces of occupation in Germany, in agreement with the governments of the respective countries.”

“19. The following interpretations relating to paragraph (C) (II) in the above draft resolution were given by the Chairman43 following requests:

In answering the delegate for Belgium, the Chairman stated that it was implied that the international body would judge what were, or what were not, “valid objections”; and that such objections clearly might be of a political nature;
In answering the delegate for Australia, the Chairman stated that it was to be presumed that the information supplied to refugees or displaced persons from the governments of their countries of origin would be made available through the responsible international body, in whatever way seemed most appropriate in view of the particular circumstances of the case.

20. The following expressions of opinion were put forward for inclusion in the report, and in the hope that they might be taken into account by the Economic and Social Council.

The United States delegation urged the importance of existing international agencies maintaining their activities for the benefit of refugees pending the outcome of the proposed study and report.
The delegation of Panama suggested that the Spanish Republican refugees should only return to Spain when a Democratic regime able to assure their rights had been established there; and that in the meantime they should be accorded special status by the countries of temporary residence, securing to them the same rights as men and workers as those enjoyed by the citizens of the country that had given them hospitality.
The Bolivian delegation suggested that the possibility should be studied of raising the necessary funds and means of transport for the transfer to countries of immigration of bona fide refugees, or displaced persons, within the limits of the immigration quotas fixed by the countries concerned and communicated to the appropriate body.

21. The committee desires to express sympathy with the Spanish refugees and wish the Economic and Social Council to examine their case with particular attention and care.”

Soviet and Yugoslav proposals rejected by Committee 3 were:

(As substitute for paragraph (II) (C).) “Those refugees who are not subject to paragraph (D) and who do not wish to return to their countries of origin should receive assistance in their early settlement in a new place with the consent of the governments concerned, i.e., the countries of their origin and of resettlement. The government of the country where the refugees are established may assume the complete cost and the responsibility for their protection.” Rejected by 28 to 6 votes.
“No propaganda should be permitted in refugee camps against the interests of the organization of the United Nations or her members nor propaganda against returning to their native countries.” Rejected by 17 to 10 votes, US with majority; Australia, Brazil, Bolivia with minority.
“The personnel of refugee camps should be comprised mainly of representatives of the states concerned, whose citizens are the refugees.” Rejected by 21 to 7 votes.
(As addition to paragraph (D).) “Quislings, traitors and war criminals, as persons dishonored for collaboration with the enemies of the United Nations in any form should not be regarded as refugees who are entitled to protection of the United Nations.” Rejected by 14 to 9 votes.
(As addition to paragraph (D).) “The General Assembly recommends to the governments concerned that quislings, traitors and war criminals who are still hiding under the guise of refugees should be immediately returned to their countries.” Rejected by 13 to 9 votes.
Danish proposal that paragraph (E) include the following: “In the case of these persons no objection to their repatriation shall be regarded as valid in the terms of the foregoing provision” was rejected without a formal vote.

In the view of the US Government the way is now clear for a decision within the Intergovernmental Committee on Refugees as to whether that body will assume responsibility for the care and resettlement of refugees and non-repatriable displaced persons pending the submission of the report of the Economic and Social Council. UNRRA is now assisting the military in Germany, Austria and Italy by supplying personnel and supplementary welfare supplies in the care of United Nations displaced persons and those assimilated to them in treatment, but is not authorized under its resolutions to provide assistance for those determined eventually to be unable or unwilling to return home.44

  1. Sent to the embassies at London, Paris, Brussels, Madrid, Lisbon, Rome, Ankara, Oslo, Belgrade, Athens, Praha, Ottawa, Moscow, Warsaw, The Hague, La Paz, Panama City, Rio de Janeiro, Chungking, Teheran; the legations at Bern, Cairo, Stockholm, Copenhagen, Dublin, Budapest, Canberra, Wellington, Pretoria, Beirut, Baghdad; the U.S. Political Adviser for Germany at Berlin; the U.S. Political Adviser for Austria at Vienna; the American Representatives at Helsinki, Bucharest, Sofia; the consulates at Capetown, Shanghai, Jerusalem, Nairobi; and the American Mission at New Delhi.
  2. United Nations, Official Records of the General Assembly, First Session, First Part, Resolutions Adopted by the General Assembly during the First Part of the First Session, p. 12. For documentation on U.S. participation in the General Assembly, see volume i .
  3. Reference is to the Third Committee of the United Nations General Assembly dealing with Social, Humanitarian, and Cultural Questions. For discussions within this body on the refugee question, see United Nations, Official Records of the General Assembly, First Session, First Part, Third Committee, pp. 9–30, passim.
  4. Peter Fraser of New Zealand was Chairman of the Third Committee of the U.N. General Assembly.
  5. For information concerning UNRRA, see bracketed note, p. 221. For a summary of subsequent handling of the refugee problem within the United Nations, see editorial note, infra.