6. Memorandum From the Coordinator for Human Rights and Humanitarian Affairs (Wilson) to the Deputy Secretary of State-Designate (Christopher)1

D/HA Monthly Report

Human Rights Reports for the Congressional Presentation Document—In accordance with legislative requirements, unclassified human rights reports have been prepared on all countries proposed for security assistance programs in FY 1978 for submission to Congress as part of the annual program presentation. The 79 reports have been cleared at the Assistant Secretary level in the geographic bureaus and are now ready for the printers in DOD.

Evaluation of Human Rights Reports on the Philippines Declassified—At Congressman Don Fraser’s request, the Department agreed by letter of January 19 to declassify its evaluation of two human rights reports on the Philippines by Amnesty International and Major Religious Superiors, which the Department had earlier submitted to Congress in classified form. Fraser’s House Subcommittee on International Organizations plans to distribute the evaluations to interested human rights organizations, but not to release them to the press.

Human Rights Contacts with Congress—On January 5, in response to an invitation, I briefed staff members of the House International Relations Committee on human rights work in the Department. The [Page 17] meeting was cordial and there was a good exchange of information and views. On January 13, Congressman Fraser held an informal meeting to discuss ratification of the international human rights instruments. I and other representatives from the Department who attended pointed out some of the problems which will have to be faced in submitting these to the Senate.

Indochinese Refugees—The flight of refugees from Vietnam, Cambodia, and Laos continues. There are now almost 80,000 refugees in Thailand and more than 2,000 Vietnamese who escaped by small boat with temporary safehaven in countries around the periphery of the South China Sea. We are providing financial support (More than $11 million in 1976 and $10 million planned for 1977) to the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR) program of care and maintenance for those in camps. We also plan to participate in the UNHCR international resettlement effort by admitting up to 100 “boat case” refugees per month plus dependents under the conditional entry provisions of the immigration act. But first the Government of Hong Kong must be persuaded by us and the UNHCR to permit those selected for admission to the U.S. under this program to be given centralized final processing in Hong Kong. With such approval, we will begin moving approved refugees without dependents as soon as U.S. private voluntary agencies find sponsors, and will move refugees with dependents as soon as non-preference numbers are available. Alternative plans to the use of Hong Kong are also under consideration in the event we get a turndown.

Admitting Soviet Refugees from Italy—The “drop out” rate in Vienna of Soviet refugees with exit permits for Israel has continued to hover for some time near 50 percent. Since many of these refugees wish to come to the United States, this has resulted in a mounting backlog (now about 3,000) of such refugees in Rome, where they apply for immigration to the U.S. To cope with this at our recommendation the Attorney General on January 13 approved use of the “parole” provisions of the immigration act. The program is supported by Jewish resettlement agencies and on Capitol Hill. Not included are those Soviet refugees who had previously proceeded to Israel and subsequently went to Rome with hopes of immigrating here. These are not considered refugees since they could return to Israel without persecution.

Haitian Asylum Seekers—Haitians are the most numerous single group of asylum seekers. Our advisory opinions to INS recommend against granting asylum to most, on the grounds that they seek economic betterment and would not suffer persecution if returned to Haiti. In January, responding to a recommendation from the Subcommittee on Immigration of the House Judiciary Committee, we sent an officer to Miami and to Port au Prince for a review. With the agreement of the [Page 18] Haitian authorities procedures were set up with cooperation from the Haitian Red Cross for review of persons deported to Haiti to insure they are not subjected to persecution.

We are also drawing on the experience of the Canadians, who have had a similar Haitian problem, and have instituted a procedure whereby representatives of the UNHCR will review all Haitian asylum requests we receive and give us advisory but non-binding opinions.

Southern African Refugees—One million dollars in refugee emergency funds was approved on December 28 for help to southern African refugees through the UNHCR. We are consulting with our mission in Geneva and concerned posts regarding the adequacy of the overall UNHCR program.

Parole for Refugees from Latin America’s Southern Cone—A parole program for 400 Chilean detainees and their families is finally near completion, with 365 cases (more than 1,100 persons) now in the U.S. and a sufficient pool to fill the remaining spaces. The parole program for 200 refugees from Chile, Uruguay, and Bolivia and their families, approved in October, now has 106 active cases being processed by the UNHCR and our Embassy in Buenos Aires. Most of the 200 cases will be from the ranks of refugees in Argentina; a few will come from detainee cases in Chile. Representatives of U.S. voluntary agencies and the INS will be in place very shortly to provide assistance. Both programs constitute the U.S. contribution to international appeals made by the UNHCR. Pressure is mounting in Congress to establish a program for admitting Argentine political detainees and for Argentine refugees in other countries who seek resettlement.

MIA’s—Deputy Coordinator for POW/MIA’s Frank Sieverts represented the President and the Secretary at a meeting of the National League of MIA Families Jan. 27–28, marking the fourth anniversary of the Paris agreement on Vietnam. The families were reassured by the President’s and the Secretary’s statements giving priority to the MIA problem in any contacts with the Vietnamese, and they hope for a meeting soon with the President. The President met January 31 with Rep. G. V. Montgomery, Chairman of the House Select Committee on Missing Persons in Southeast Asia, which filed its final report December 15.2 According to Montgomery and the NSC staff, the President said he considered the MIA question to be a primary aspect of our relations with the Vietnamese. Montgomery advised the President against appointing a new Presidential Commission on MIA’s and recommended that he act soon to resume contacts with the Vietnamese.

  1. Source: National Archives, RG 59, Bureau of Human Rights and Humanitarian Affairs, Chron and Official Records of the Assistant Secretary for Human Rights and Humanitarian Affairs, Lot 85D366, Monthly Report—Deputy Secy. Confidential.
  2. According to the President’s Daily Diary, Carter met with Montgomery and other members of the House Committee from 11:38 a.m. to 12:06 p.m. (Carter Library, Presidential Materials, President’s Daily Diary) No record of this meeting has been found.