398.18 BR/1–1752

Report on the Conference on Migration and on the First Session of the Provisional Intergovernmental Committee for the Movement of Migrants From Europe1


The Conference on Migration, convened by the Belgian Government at the suggestion of the United States Government, met in 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.

Section 16 of the Displaced Persons Act of 1948, as amended (P.L. 555, 81st Congress),2 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.3 Section 115 (e) of the ECA Act of 1948, as amended (P.L. 535, 81st Congress)4 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,5 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 1951,6 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 [Page 1573] 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. Representative7 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 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 [Page 1574] 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 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 [Page 1575] in operation. A Working Party of Experts on Shipping,8 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)9 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, 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. 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 [Page 1576] 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 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.10 Dr. Goedhart did not believe that the ILO [Page 1577] 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 Lee-mans 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.11 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.

[Here follows discussion of various procedural matters taken up at the first session of the Provisional Committee, the percentage to be contributed by each member to the administrative expenses of the organization, and the Committee’s inability to fill the Office of Director at this session.]

  1. Drafted by George L. Warren, Adviser on Refugees and Displaced Persons, Bureau of United Nations Affairs.
  2. Enacted June 16, 1950; for text, see 64 Stat. 219.
  3. According to the text of the official conference report, there were actually three separate problems involved: The problem of expellees of German ethnic origin who still remained in Germany and Austria; the pressures of surplus population in certain critical areas, especially in Italy and Germany; and the problems resulting from the continuing flow into Western Europe of new refugees from behind the Iron Curtain. With the scheduled termination of the International Refugee Organization, there would no longer be any machinery to deal with these problems on an international level. (398.18 BR/1–2152)
  4. Enacted June 5, 1950; for text, see 64 Stat. 198.
  5. Enacted Oct. 10, 1951; for text, see 65 Stat. 373.
  6. Enacted Oct. 31, 1951; for text, see 65 Stat. 730.
  7. George L. Warren.
  8. The Working Party held meetings Nov. 29–Dec. 7 and was composed of shipping experts from the French, German, Dutch, British, and U.S. Delegations; immigration specialists from Australia and Canada; and observers from Norway and the IRO.
  9. Not printed.
  10. Reference is presumably to the text of the House-Senate conference report on the Mutual Security Act of 1951 which emphasized that Congress intended that none of the funds therein authorized to facilitate emigration from Europe “be allocated to any international organization which has in its membership any Communist, Communist-dominated or Communist-controlled country, to any subsidiary thereof or to any agency created by or stemming from such an organization. It is vital to the security of the United States and to the success of the surplus-manpower emigration program that no international body with Communist influence receive any United States assistance for the purpose of such a program.” (House Report 1090, 82d Cong., 1st sess., p. 21) This stipulation effectively killed a five-year plan for resettling Europe’s surplus populations then under discussion within the ILO.
  11. A resolution adopted at the fourth session of the Provisional Committee, held at Geneva, Oct. 13–21, 1952, provided for the Committee’s continued operation during 1953 under the title: “Intergovernmental Committee for the Movement of Migrants from Europe.” See the Report on the Fourth Session of the Provisional Intergovernmental Committee for the Movement of Migrants from Europe, dated Nov. 26, 1952, p. 1617.