No. 83


Memorandum by George L. Warren of the Refugees and Displaced Persons Staff of the Bureau of United Nations Affairs


Confidential Report on the Conference on Migration Held at Brussels, Belgium From November 26 Through December 5, 1951 and the Session of the Provisional Intergovernmental Committee for the Movement of Migrants From Europe Held at Brussels From December 6 Through December 8, 1951

The Conference on Migration, convened by the Belgian Government at the suggestion of the United States Government, met in [Page 195] Brussels from November 26 through December 5, 1951. The Provisional Intergovernmental Committee for the Movement of Migrants from Europe, established by decision of the Conference on Migration, held its initial meeting for purposes of organization at Brussels from December 6 through December 8, 1951.

Warren was Chairman of the U.S. Delegation to both the Migration Conference and the Intergovernmental Committee for the Movement of Migrants from Europe. The source text does not indicate to whom, if anyone, this report was circulated.

Section 16 of the Displaced Persons Act of 1948, as amended (P.L. 555, 81st Congress), authorized the U.S. Government to participate in an international conference to develop ways of alleviating the problems of excess population in certain countries in Europe. Section 115 (e) of the ECA Act of 1948, as amended (P.L. 535, 81st Congress), directed the ECA Administrator to encourage the emigration of surplus manpower from participating countries to areas where such manpower can be effectively utilized. The Mutual Security Act of 1951, P.L. 165, 82nd Congress, in Section 101 (a)(2) authorized the expenditure of funds up to $10,000,000 to effectuate the principles set forth in Section 115 (e) of the ECA Act of 1948, as amended. The Appropriations Legislation, P.L. 249, 82nd Congress, 1st Session, for the Mutual Security Act of 1951, earmarked $10,000,000 to be used specifically for migration purposes.

In order to implement the foregoing Congressional Acts, the Department invited the Belgian Government, and the Belgian Government accepted, to convene a Conference on Migration at Brussels on November 26, 1951. Twenty-seven governments attended the Conference, eight as observers—Argentina, Denmark, Guatemala, Israel, Norway, Paraguay, Peru and Sweden. The Governments of Ecuador, El Salvador, Panama, Portugal, New Zealand, the Union of South Africa and Uruguay, though invited, did not reply or reported that they were unable to send representatives. A preparatory informal conference of nine governments whose representatives were present at Brussels was held on November 23, 1951.

At the opening session on November 26, 1951, the U.S. Representative presented a plan for the establishment of a provisional intergovernmental committee on migration to facilitate the movement of migrants from Europe. This plan proposed that twelve ships, to be relinquished on the termination of the International Refugee Organization (IRO) on January 1, 1952, be taken over to move approximately 115,000 persons, who would not otherwise be moved, during one year from Germany, Austria, Italy, the Netherlands and Greece, to countries of immigration at an over-all estimated cost of approximately $34,000,000. The United States would contribute $10,000,000 of this sum, provided a total budget of approximately that proposed was adopted. It was suggested that membership in the committee be open to all non-Communist Governments and that each member, as a matter of obligation, contribute [Page 196] an agreed share to the Administrative Expenses of approximately $3,000,000. Contributions to the Operating Fund were to be voluntary. Of the U.S. contribution, approximately $1,000,000 would be allocated to the Administrative Expenses, and $9,000,000 to the Operating Fund, which was set at $12,000,000 to $14,000,000.

The general discussion following presentation of the U.S. proposal indicated virtually unanimous acceptance of the proposal in principle. Some representatives expressed disappointment at the limited numbers of migrants and refugees to be moved. There was general agreement that the organization proposed should be provisional, flexible in character, and temporary, that its Administrative Expenses should be held to a minimum, and that the maximum of the resources made available should be allocated to operations. There was also unanimous agreement that refugees should be included among the persons to be moved. Questions were raised, particularly by the Italian and United Kingdom representatives, as to the necessity of utilizing the IRO ships in the proposed movement on the grounds that commercial shipping was considered adequate for the purpose. The draft resolution proposed by the U.S. representative was criticized sympathetically by some representatives because of failure to present a proper balance between the interests of emigration and immigration countries. However, the basic elements of the plan received general acceptance as well suited to meet the current requirements of emigration and immigration countries with respect to migration.

Questions were raised as to the proposed relationships between the committee and other international and non-governmental bodies. The UN High Commissioner for Refugees, strongly supported by the Netherlands representative in particular, made a plea for a special status for himself as a non-voting member of the committee. The representatives of two international organizations of labor unions present as observers, the ICFTU and the ICCTU, were critical of the lack of provision in the plan for direct participation in the committee by representatives of organized labor.

In replying to the foregoing observations, the U.S. Representative agreed that the plan proposed was a modest one, but emphasized the necessity of a demonstration of viability of the plan as a prerequisite to its expansion to meet the problem of surplus population on a more adequate basis. It was necessary, he said, to build soundly on small beginnings and to provide for development on the basis of acquired experience. He also assured the Conference that the proposals did not in any way envisage that the committee would trespass in its activities on those of any other existing organization, and that any assistance which could be afforded by other bodies engaged in related activities would be welcome. He stressed [Page 197] that the plan proposed operations for one year, during which the government members of the committee might decide, in the light of existing circumstances at the time, whether the plan was to be expanded, extended or terminated.

With respect to the question of shipping, the U.S. Representative stated that his Government was convinced that the ships presently operated by IRO and reconditioned at great expense to international funds for the movement of migrants would be required, if additional migrants were to be moved from Europe beyond those presently moving under other auspices. In order to remove all possible concern that the committee might compete with commercial operations, he stated that the United States would propose that the committee adopt a policy of utilizing all commercial shipping offered which would meet essential requirements, namely, adequate accommodation in accordance with the regulations of ports of embarkation and disembarkation, availability when needed at specific ports of embarkation, and for specific routes of transport, and prices comparable to those established by the committee’s experience in operation. A Working Party of Experts on Shipping later made a similar recommendation to the Conference. The U.S. Representative also stressed the advantages to be gained in operating a fleet of ships for migration purposes under international auspices, such as greater flexibility in movement, savings in costs and shipping schedules arranged to suit the particular needs of emigration and immigration countries.

Upon the conclusion of the general discussion, the Conference proceeded to amend the draft resolution submitted by the U.S. Representative establishing the committee and to examine the proposed administrative and operational budgets together with the texts of various resolutions required to be adopted in order to bring the proposed intergovernmental committee into formal existence.

The basic Resolution to Establish the Provisional Intergovernmental Committee for the Movement of Migrants from Europe (Document MCB/2/Rev. 5)2 was formally adopted on December 5, 1951 by a vote of 16-0-1. The governments voting for the resolution were Australia, Austria, Brazil, Belgium, Bolivia, Canada, Chile, France, German Federal Republic, Greece, Italy, Luxembourg, the Netherlands, Switzerland, Turkey, and the United States. Austria, though absent at the vote had previously directed that its vote be recorded as favorable. There were no votes in opposition. The United Kingdom abstained on the grounds that further examination of the proposal would need to take place in London. Although Argentina voted for the resolution, Guatemala abstained, and Colombia, [Page 198] though absent, later requested to record its vote as an abstention, none of these votes were recorded in the final tally since the first two, Argentina and Guatemala, were observers, and Colombia was not, in fact, present at the vote. Paraguay and Venezuela were also absent at the vote. Denmark, Israel, Norway, Peru, and Sweden responded as observers. The text of the resolution as finally adopted did not deviate in any important matter of substance from that which was submitted by the U.S. Representative.3 Of the countries voting for the resolution, the emigration countries—Austria, the German Federal Republic, Greece, Italy and the Netherlands—indicated forthrightly their intention to participate in the Committee, subject to the completion of the necessary steps to make their contribution available. Of the immigration countries, Australia and Canada, while expressing firm support of the proposal, reported that formal action of adherence in addition to legislative actions concerning their financial appropriations would be required to be taken later. Brazil, Bolivia and Chile made reservations based solely on the completion of the required appropriations actions. Of the non-emigrant and non-immigrant governments voting for the resolution, Belgium, Luxembourg and Switzerland were positive in indicating their adherence subject to the completion of legislative actions concerning their financial contributions. The representative of France, while supporting the proposals wholeheartedly, stated that formal action of adherence and financial participation would require a few weeks in time after the Brussels Conference. The final position of the Government of Turkey with respect to actual adherence remained uncertain at the end of the Conference.

Paragraph (10) of the operative part of the resolution reads:


“that the Committee will give early consideration to the question of the relations to be established with international, non-governmental and voluntary organizations conducting activities in the field of migration and refugees;”

During the course of the consideration of the draft resolution Dr. van Heuven Goedhart, UN High Commissioner for Refugees, proposed to the United States and other delegations that he be granted the special status of “participant” in the work of the Committee. By this he meant that he should sit at the Committee table with representatives of the governments with freedom to take part at any time in the discussion, but without the right to vote. This position would be different from that of observers who sit at the rear of [Page 199] the room in the Committee meetings and speak at the invitation of the Chairman after submitting a request to do so. Dr. Goedhart justified his claim on the ground that the General Assembly of the United Nations had established a precedent for this status of the High Commissioner at the Diplomatic Conference in Geneva in July 1951 on the Convention relating to the Status of Refugees. The U.S. Representative explained to Dr. Goedhart that the grant of this special status would automatically stimulate claims for similar status, particularly by the ILO, and possibly by other organizations such as the OEEC. Such a claim by the ILO, if accepted by the Provisional Committee, would cause real embarrassment to the United States in view of the special provision of the MSA Act with reference to the ILO. Dr. Goedhart did not believe that the ILO would press such a claim. The Netherlands representative presented to the drafting committee on the resolution a text providing for this special status for the High Commissioner but on realization of the difficulties involved in the proposal accepted the text of Para (10) as finally adopted, believing with the U.S. Representative at the time that the problem would be discussed by the Provisional Committee at the Brussels meeting. Later, in the course of the meetings of the Provisional Committee, the Netherlands representative voluntarily offered to postpone all discussion of the matter until the second session of the Provisional Committee some time in February 1952.

Following the adoption of the resolution, the members of the Conference, continuing under the Chairmanship of Mr. Franz Leemans of Belgium, met from December 6 through 8, 1951 to consider the various proposed draft resolutions, the adoption of which was essential to bring the Provisional Committee into formal existence. The governments represented at the initial session of the Provisional Committee were Australia, Belgium, Bolivia, Brazil, Canada, Chile, France, Germany, Greece, Italy, Luxembourg, the Netherlands, Switzerland, the United Kingdom and the United States. The Observers present at the Conference continued in attendance.

The procedure adopted was to review all the proposed resolutions, to amend the texts thereof, and to postpone formal voting on the amended texts until the final meeting of the Committee on the afternoon of December 8. This was done in order to give each government representative present maximum opportunity to consult his government prior to formal action on the resolutions.

There was unanimous insistence that the budget of administrative expenditures, originally proposed in the amount of $3,060,300, be reduced and that the maximum funds available to the Committee be applied to operations. The final result of the discussions was to reduce the administrative budget to $2,359,060. This was accomplished [Page 200] in the main by a reduction in the proposed international staff, both in terms of numbers and by utilizing a larger number of local staff personnel at national as distinguished from international salary scales. Certain items of expenditure were also frozen pending decisions to be taken by the Committee at later sessions. The Canadian representative assumed leadership in bringing about these reductions.

The Operating Fund of $14,000,000 was accepted without change. Of this Fund it was decided that $3,000,000 would be required for working capital and that $11,000,000 would be allocated for the payment of movements of migrants for which no reimbursement or only partial reimbursement proved possible. The U.S. proposals that contributions to the Operating Fund, which would be voluntary, consist of (a) outright contributions in cash without restriction as to use; (b) contributions restricted in use, such as for the movement of refugees only; (c) advance contributions in cash against which reimbursements owing would be charged later; and (d) reimbursements for services rendered were accepted without modification. The representatives of Canada and Switzerland indicated that their Governments would make contributions to the Operating Fund very likely restricted to the payment of movement for refugees.

In the discussion on the allocation to the Member Governments of percentage contributions to the Administrative Expenditures of the Committee, the U.S. Representative suggested that the U.S. percentage should be 33⅓ per cent. This suggestion was readily accepted. He further suggested that other allocations, at least to the emigration and immigration countries, might be based on the proportion which the numbers of migrants or refugees leaving or entering a given country under the auspices of the Committee bear to the total numbers moved by the Committee. These discussions were initiated during the course of the Conference and were continued and finalized during the sessions of the Committee. The first decision reached was that apart from the United States the other Member Governments would be divided into categories of emigration governments, immigration governments, and interested governments. The Administrative Expenditures were then allocated between the categories as follows:

The United States 3/9
Emigration Governments 2/9
Immigration Governments 2/9
Interested Governments 2/9

[Page 201]

Representatives of the emigration, immigration, and interested governments then met in their respective groups to make allocations within the groups. The emigration governments reached agreement on allocations within their group immediately The immigration governments, which adopted a formula of making allocations on the number of migrants to be received, had more difficulty in reaching agreement. The representative of Canada was particularly concerned over the outcome arrived at on this basis. Having accepted to take 40,000 of the total persons to be moved, the ultimate percentage allocation for Canada on this basis proved to be 9.9 per cent of the total Administrative Expenditures, or roughly $6 per migrant to be received. The Canadian representative claimed that their over-head cost per migrant proceeding to Canada on commercial shipping was $3. The U.S. Representative argued in return that the higher over-head cost of $6 under the Committee would be compensated by a lower ocean transport cost. The Canadian representative readily admitted this point, but argued that the migrant would benefit from this lower transport cost rather than the Canadian Government. To resolve the difficulty the Canadian representative finally suggested and won acceptance for the principle that the highest contributor in any group should not be allocated a larger percentage than the highest contributor in any other group, excluding the United States. By the application of this principle the highest allocation in any group worked out to be 8.4 per cent of the total Administrative Expenditures. This percentage was accepted by Germany and Italy of the emigration group, Canada in the immigration group, and France and the United Kingdom in the interested group. The final allocation of percentages adopted appears in document PIC/18, December 8, 1951.4

In spite of persistent efforts by the Department and by the U.S. Representative and the Alternate Representative at Brussels, it proved impossible for the U.S. Representative to nominate a candidate for the post of Director of the Provisional Committee who would meet the two qualifications of acceptability to interested Congressional leaders and to the other Member Governments of the Committee. In view of the expressed determination of the representatives present at Brussels to adjourn the first session of the Provisional Committee on December 8, 1951, the failure of the U.S. Representative to announce a candidate by the evening of December 7 created serious concern among the other representatives at the Conference. In consequence, on the initiative of the representatives of France and Belgium, a private meeting of the heads of delegations [Page 202] only was held at midnight on December 7 to discuss the problem. The representatives of the following governments attended this closed meeting: Australia, Belgium, Bolivia, Brazil, Canada, Chile, France, German Federal Republic, Italy, Luxembourg, the Netherlands, Switzerland, the United Kingdom and the United States.

At the above private meeting the representatives of France and Belgium stated that the interest of their Governments in the U.S. proposals concerning the Committee had developed on the assumption that a particular American candidate, well-known to all of the governments represented, whose capacities for the position of Director had been demonstrated to them, would be nominated for the post by the U.S. Government. In the absence of such nomination, they stated, their governments would find it necessary to review their previous statements made at the sessions of the Conference and the Committee with respect to the participation of their governments and to reserve their positions. With the exception of the representatives of the Netherlands and the United Kingdom, the representatives of the other governments present associated themselves in one manner or another with the position of the Belgian and French representatives. The representatives of the Netherlands and the United Kingdom indicated that they would support the nomination of any candidate by the U.S. Government who met the qualifications ascribed to the candidate referred to by the representatives of France and Belgium.

In view of the necessity, from the point of view of timing, that the Provisional Committee come into formal existence and take the various preparatory steps to enable it to take over the ships to be relinquished by IRO in December 1951–January 1952 and to avoid a gap in movements, the U.S. Representative suggested informally on the morning of December 8 to a number of interested representatives that the powers and duties of Director be vested temporarily in the person of Mr. Franz Leemans, representative of Belgium and elected Chairman of the Committee, until the problem of the nomination of Director could be resolved, and that Mr. Leemans in such capacity appoint Mr. Pierre Jacobsen (French) as Deputy Director of the Committee with instructions to act on its behalf. This suggestion was accepted with great relief by the other representatives consulted who, however, insisted that the powers of the Director be vested jointly in Mr. Leemans and Mr. George L. Warren, U.S. Representative. This proposal was formally presented to the Committee at the morning session on December 8 by the representative of the German Federal Republic, supported by the representatives of France and Canada, and was unanimously adopted.

[Page 203]

The Committee in its final public session on the afternoon of December 8, 1951 formally adopted a series of resolutions implementing the decision to establish the Committee, all by a vote of 14-0-1. The United Kingdom abstained on each vote. The important actions taken were the adoption of the Budget in the total sum of $36,954,000, the Plan of Expenditure for one year of operations $33,954,000, including authority to the Director to incur obligations and make expenditures under the Plan, the Scale of Contributions, Financial Regulations, Rules of Procedure, a statement defining the powers and duties of the Director, and a resolution vesting the duties and powers of the Director in the persons of Mr. Leemans and Mr. Warren. The Committee also voted to meet early in February at the call of the Chairman.

Members of the Sub-Committee on Immigration and Naturalization of the House Judiciary Committee, under the Chairmanship of Congressman Francis E. Walter, Alternate U.S. Representative, attended all of the meetings of the Conference and many of the meetings of the Committee. The House members included, in addition to Mr. Walter, Representative Clifford Case (R. N.J.); Representative Frank L. Chelf (D. Ky); Representative Michael Feighan (D. Ohio); Representative Angier L. Goodwin (R. Mass); and Representative Chauncy W. Reed (R. III). These Congressional members who, prior to their arrival in Brussels, had conducted investigations in Germany, Austria and Italy of the refugee problem, frequently expressed satisfaction at the progress of the Conference, and showed a particular interest in the statements made during discussions by representatives of the other governments. They supported the U.S. proposals wholeheartedly and left Brussels feeling that a real step forward had been taken in line with their individual and collective views on the problem.

This report would be incomplete without special mention of the outstanding contribution which Mr. Franz Leemans, Belgian representative and Chairman of the Conference and the Committee made to the success of the Conference. Though not too familiar from past experience with the technical questions under discussion, his experience as a businessman enabled him to grasp the issues under discussion readily and to provide real leadership in reaching decisions which reflected the interests of the governments represented at the Conference. He was an able presiding officer and moved the Conference and the Committee forward to the ultimate conclusions with firmness and dispatch, and yet without offense. His summations of discussions were always helpful and he showed particular skill in holding the representatives to brief and pertinent observations.

  1. Not printed.
  2. See paragraph a of circular telegram 459, Document 81.
  3. Not printed.