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‘Unwilling’: The One-Word Revolution in Refugee Status, 1940–51

  • ANDREW PAUL JANCO (a1)

Abstract

This article details the origins of the human right to international asylum. While previous works locate its beginnings in East–West political conflict in the 1950s, I note the importance of American opposition to the Soviet invasion of Poland and the Baltic countries in 1939–40 and its later consequences for relief work with post-war Displaced Persons from those countries. Given that Eastern European states at the UN claimed to protect people displaced from these non-recognised territories, British and American delegates were forced to create a new refugee definition that allowed DPs to reject state protections and to seek asylum as refugees.

Cet article explique en détail l’origine du droit humain à l’asile international. Alors que les travaux précédents en placent l’origine dans le conflit Est-Ouest des années cinquante, je souligne l’importance de l’opposition américaine à l’invasion soviétique de la Pologne et des pays baltes en 1939–40 et ses conséquences ultérieures pour les activités humanitaires en faveur des personnes déplacées issues de ces pays. Étant donné que les états d’Europe de l’Est siégeant aux Nations Unies prétendaient protéger les personnes déplacées de ces territoires non reconnus, les délégués britanniques et américains ont été forcés de créer une nouvelle définition de réfugié qui permette aux personnes déplacées de rejeter la protection d’un état pour demander l’asile en tant que réfugiés.

Dieser Beitrag befasst sich mit den Ursprüngen des Menschenrechts auf internationales Asyl. Frühere Arbeiten siedeln die Anfänge dieses Konzepts im politischen Konflikt zwischen Ost und West in den fünfziger Jahren an. Der Autor weist in diesem Zusammenhang jedoch auf die Bedeutung des amerikanischen Widerstands gegen den sowjetischen Einmarsch in Polen und ins Baltikum in den Jahren 1939–40 und dessen Auswirkungen auf Hilfsmaßnahmen für Flüchtlinge und Vertriebene aus diesen Ländern nach dem Zweiten Weltkrieg hin. Die in den Vereinten Nationen vertretenen osteuropäischen Staaten behaupteten, aus diesen nicht anerkannten Gebieten geflüchtete Personen zu schützen. Die britischen und amerikanischen Delegierten waren daher gezwungen, eine neue Definition des Begriffs ‘Flüchtling’ zu formulieren, die es solchen Personen erlaubte, den Schutz dieser Staaten abzulehnen und als Flüchtlinge Asyl zu beantragen.

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1 Simpson, John Hope, The Refugee Problem: Report of a Survey (London: Oxford University Press, 1939), 227–8; Hathaway, James C., The Law of Refugee Status (Toronto: Butterworths, 1991), 26; Jackson, Ivor, The Refugee Concept in Group Situations (The Hague: Martinus Nijhoff Publishers, 2011).

2 Proudfoot, Malcolm Jarvis, European Refugees: 1939–52: A Study in Forced Population Movement, Vol. 10, Northwestern University Studies, Social Sciences Series (Evanston, Ill.: Northwestern University Press, 1956), 401; Vernant, Jacques, The Refugee in the Post-War World (New Haven, Conn.: Yale University Press, 1953), 34.

3 ‘East v. West at Church House’, Whitehall News, 26 Apr. 1946.

4 Hathaway, James, ‘The Evolution of Refugee Status in International Law: 1920–1950’, International and Comparative Law Quarterly, 33 (1984), 369–70; Melander, Göran, ‘The Concept of the Term “Refugee”’, in Marrus, Michael and Bramwell, Anna, eds, Refugees in an Age of Total War (Boston: Unwin Hyman, 1988). See also Noiriel, Gérard, La Tyrannie du national: Le Droit d’asile en Europe, 1793–1993 (Paris: Calmann-Lévy, 1991).

5 Holian, Anna Marta, Between National Socialism and Soviet Communism: Displaced Persons in Postwar Germany (Ann Arbor, Mich.: University of Michigan Press, 2011), 5680.

6 Sjöberg, Tommie, The Powers and the Persecuted: The Refugee Problem and the Intergovernmental Committee on Refugees (IGCR), 1938–1947 (Lund: Lund University Press, 1991); Gatrell, Peter and Baron, Nick, Warlands: Population Resettlement and State Reconstruction in the Soviet–East European Borderlands, 1945–50 (Basingstoke: Palgrave Macmillan, 2009); Reinisch, Jessica and White, Elizabeth, The Disentanglement of Populations: Migration, Expulsion and Displacement in Post-War Europe, 1944–49 (New York: Palgrave Macmillan, 2010); Mazower, Mark, Reinisch, Jessica and Feldman, David, eds, Post-war Reconstruction in Europe: International Perspectives, 1945–1949 (Oxford; New York: Oxford University Press, 2011).

7 Vernant, The Refugee in the Post-War World, 62, 67; Boshyk, Yury, ‘Repatriation and Resistance: Ukrainian refugees and Displaced Persons in Occupied Germany and Austria, 1945–1948’ in Bramwell, Anna, ed., Refugees in an Age of Total War (Boston: Unwin Hyman, 1988), 215; State Archive of the Russian Federation (GA RF) f. 9526, op. 4a, d.7, l. 5–6.

8 Vernant, The Refugee in the Post-War World, 67–8, 76, 80. See also Andrew Paul Janco ‘Soviet “Displaced Persons” in Europe, 1941–51’, PhD diss., University of Chicago, 2012, 158.

9 Vernant, The Refugee in the Post-war World, 62–3; Cohen, Gerard Daniel, In War's Wake: Europe's Displaced Persons in the Postwar Order (New York: Oxford University Press, 2012), 126–49; Grossmann, Atina, Jews, Germans, and Allies: Close Encounters in Occupied Germany (Princeton, NJ: Princeton University Press, 2007); Holian, Anna Marta, Between National Socialism and Soviet Communism: Displaced Persons in Postwar Germany (Ann Arbor, Mich.: University of Michigan Press, 2011).

10 Allied Expeditionary Force, Displaced Persons Registration Instructions (June 1944), 4. See Janco ‘Soviet “Displaced Persons” ’, 147–50.

11 See Borgwardt, Elizabeth, A New Deal for the World: America's Vision for Human Rights (Cambridge, Mass.: Harvard University Press, 2007).

12 O’Sullivan, Christopher D., Sumner Welles, Postwar Planning, and the Quest for a New World Order, 1937–1943 (New York: Columbia University Press, 2008).

13 Agreement Relating to Prisoners of War and Civilians Liberated by Forces Operating Under Soviet Command and Forces Operating Under United States of America Command, 11 Feb. 1945 available at http://avalon.law.yale.edu/20th_century/sov007.asp (last visited 18 Apr. 2014).

14 From AGWAR to AFHQ, 5 Apr. 1945, WX-63626, WO 204/3521, War Office Records, The National Archives, London (henceforth TNA).

15 PW and DP Division, Main Headquarters, Control Commission for Germany, ‘Repatriation of Russian DPs and Determination of Soviet Nationality’, 11 Aug. 45, ref. PWDP/58044, FO 1052/13, TNA.

16 Cited in letter from Herbert Emerson to Hector McNeil, 25 Jan. 1946, United States Department of State, Records of the Department of State Relating to the Problems of Relief and Refugees in Europe Arising from World War II and Its Aftermath, 1938–1949, film S 1040 (M1284), roll 61, 610.

17 For example, see Soviet Military Administration in Germany (SVAG), ‘Transcript of negotiations between Generals Briukhanov and Kenchington’, 6 Aug. 1946, GA RF, R-7317, op. 20, d. 62, l. 222.

18 IGC – Fifth Plenary Session, November 20, 1945, Records of the Intergovernmental Committee on Refugees, 1938–1947. US National Archives, Archives Unbound, Gale Document Number SC5000407742 (last visited 15 Apr. 2014).

19 Loescher, Gil, The UNHCR and World Politics: A Perilous Path (New York: Oxford University Press, 2001), 41.

20 Director IGCR (Herbert Emerson), Memorandum, 8 Jun. 1945, TNA FO 371/51136–0010.

21 Herbert Emerson, ‘Memorandum: The Jewish Refugee Problem’, 23 Jan. 1946, Intergovernmental Committee, File Copies, Folder 1 Of 2. 1946, Records of the Intergovernmental Committee on Refugees, 1938–1947, US National Archives, Archives Unbound, Web.

22 For a detailed account of the origins of the British government's position, see Sjöberg, The Powers and the Persecuted, 210–14.

23 Inter-Governmental Committee on Refugees, Fifth Plenary Session (held in Paris), 22 Nov. 1945, TNA, FO 371/51139–0016.

24 George L. Warren, The Development of United State Participation in Intergovernmental Efforts to Resolve Refugee Problems, Box 2, 37, Papers of George L. Warren, Truman Presidential Archive, Independence, Missouri.

25 Stoessinger, John George, The Refugee and the World Community (Mineapolis, Minn.: University of Minnesota Press, 1956), 6062; Gerard Daniel Cohen, In War's Wake, 13–34; Sjöberg, The Powers and the Persecuted, 168–225.

26 Philip Noel-Baker, ‘Proposal Concerning Refugees submitted by the Delegation of the United Kingdom (A/C.3/5)’, in United Nations, Official Records of the First Part of the First Session of the General Assembly, Third Committee, Social Humanitarian and Cultural Questions, Summary of Records of Meetings; 11 January – 10 February 1946, 37–43.

27 United Nations, Official Records of the First Part of the First Session of the General Assembly, Third Committee, 56–7.

28 United Nations, Official Records of the First Part of the First Session of the General Assembly, Third Committee, 43–4.

29 Ibid. 54.

30 Proposal concerning Refugees submitted by the Delegation of the United States of America (A/C.3/20), 5 Feb. 1946, Official Records of the First Part of the First Session of the General Assembly, Third Committee, 56.

31 Ibid. 52.

32 United Nations General Assembly, ‘Question of Refugees’ A/RES/8(I), 12 Feb. 1946.

33 Minutes of Meeting of the British Delegation to the Fourth Council Meeting of the United Nations Relief and Rehabilitation Administration, British Embassy, Washington DC, 11 Mar. 1946, TNA FO 371/57704.

34 Acting Secretary of State to George L. Warren, 5 Apr. 1946, US State Department Central Decimal, 1945–1949, R501.BD Refugees, RG 59, National Archives, College Park, MD (hereafter NARA II).

35 George Rendel, ‘Proposal Put Forward by the United Kingdom Delegate to the Special Committee on Refugees and Displaced Persons’, 9 Apr. 1946, TNA, FO 371/57705-0008.

36 Soviet records indicate that 58% of repatriates returned home without incident and 19% were drafted into the Red Army or labour battalions. Roughly 7% faced criminal charges of collaboration or other war crimes. Mark Edele, ‘A “Generation of Victors?” Soviet Second World War Veterans from Demobilization to Organization 1941–1956’, PhD thesis, University of Chicago, 2004, 28–30; Pavel Polian, Zhertvy dvukh diktatur: Ostarbaitery i voennoplennye v tret’em reikhe i ikh repatriatsiia (Moscow: Vash Vybor, 1996); Vanessa Voisin, ‘L’épuration de guerre en URSS, à partir de l’exemple de la région de Kalinine. 1941–1953’, PhD thesis, University of Paris I, 2013.

37 Incoming telegraph for Durbrow and Vance from Warren, 11 Apr. 1946, NARA II, US State Department Central Decimal, R501.BD Refugees.

38 Incoming telegraph from AMEmbassy London for Warren, 12 Apr. 1946, NARA II, US State Department Central Decimal, R501.BD Refugees.

39 Definitions of the Terms ‘Refugee’ and ‘Displaced Persons’ Submitted by the Intergovernmental Committee on Refugees and by UNRRA to the Special Committee on Refugees and Displaced Persons in London, 10 Apr. 1946, TNA, FO 371/55705-0008.

40 Speech by Herbert Emerson, Special Committee on Refugees and Displaced Persons, Summary record of the fifth meeting held at Church House, 11 Apr. 1946, TNA, FO 371/57705–0010.

41 Incoming telegram from Winant to Secretary of State, 12 Apr. 1946, NARA II, US State Department Central Decimal, R501.BD Refugees.

42 Incoming telegram from Gallman to Secretary of State, 15 Apr. 1946, NARA II, US State Department Central Decimal, R501.BD Refugees.

43 Special Committee on Refugees and Displaced Persons, Draft Definition (E/REF/29)’, 15/16 Apr. 1946, TNA, FO 371/57705-0019.

44 IRO Constitution, Annex I, Section C. For detailed discussion of IRO eligibility criteria in practice, see: Cohen, In War's Wake.

45 Special Committee on Refugees and Displaced Persons, Subcommittee on Definitions, Report of the Chairman (E/REF/65), 8 May 1946, TNA, FO 371/57708;0003.

46 Ibid. Given that the report was written by Rendel and was addressed to McNeil, the ‘United Kingdom Delegate’ must refer to Rendel.

48 Special Committee on Refugees and Displaced Persons, Subcommittee on Definitions, Report of the Chairman (E/REF/65), 8 May 1946, TNA, FO 371/57708;0003.

49 Report of the Special Committee on Refugees and Displaced Persons (E/REF/75), 1 Jun. 1946, TNA, FO 371/57712.

50 IGC Executive Committee Meeting. July 16, 1946, Records of the Intergovernmental Committee on Refugees, 1938–1947, US National Archives, Archives Unbound, Web. (last accessed 15 Apr. 2014). The countries represented at that meeting were the United States, United Kingdom, USSR, Netherlands, Brazil, France, Mexico, Canada and Czechoslovakia. Czechoslovakia abstained and the USSR voted against the measure.

51 Text of a Speech Delivered by A. V. Vyshinsky in Committee III of the General Assembly of the United Nations, 6 Nov. 1946 (Washington, DC: Embassy of the Union of Soviet Socialist Republics, 1946), 6.

52 IRO Constitution, Annex I: Definitions, Section A: Definition of Refugees, paragraph 2.

53 UN Ad Hoc Committee on Refugees and Stateless Persons, A Study of Statelessness, United Nations, August 1949, Lake Success, New York, 1 August 1949, E/1112; E/1112/Add.1, available at http://www.refworld.org/docid/3ae68c2d0.html (last visited 14 Apr. 2014); Alex Takkenberg and Christopher C. Tahbaz, The Collected Travaux Préparatoires of the 1951 Geneva Convention Relating to the Status of Refugees (Amsterdam: Dutch Refugee Council, 1990), 1:19; James C. Hathaway, The Rights of Refugees under International Law (New York: Cambridge University Press, 2005). In documents from this time, nationality is often translated as nationalité, Staatsangehörigkeit or podanstvo.

54 UN, A Study of Statelessness.

55 United Kingdom: Draft Proposal for Article 1 (E/AV.32/2), 17 Jan. 1950, in Takkenberg and Tahbaz, Collected Travaux Préparatoires, 1:358.

56 Draft Brief for the United Kingdom representatives on the ad hoc Committee of E.C.O.S.O.C. on Refugees and Stateless Persons, 30 Dec. 1949, TNA, FO 371/87395. It should be noted that the copy of this document in the National Archives has ‘NO!!!’ written in ink beside this statement.

57 Paul Weis, ed., The Refugee Convention, 1951: The Travaux Préparatoires analysed, with a commentary by the late Dr Paul Weis (Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 1995), 1–35. The French version reads ‘qui ne peut ou, du fait de cette crainte, ne veut se réclamer de la protection de ce pays’.

58 The main difference between the two definitions is that the persecution clause appears first in the Ad Hoc Committee definition rather than after the ‘result of events’ clause.

59 Texts of the Draft Convention and the Draft Protocol to be Considered by the Conference, 12 Mar. 1951, Collected Travaux Préparatoires, 3:157. The section with ‘unable or unwilling to avail’ appears here for the first time as Chapter 1, Article 1 A(2). This would be its final position in the Refugee Convention.

60 Goodwil-Gill, Guy, The Refugee in International Law (New York: Oxford University Press, 2007), 67 n. 86.

61 Price, Matthew E., Rethinking Asylum: History, Purpose, and Limits (New York: Cambridge University Press, 2009).

62 Iriye, Akira, Goedde, Petra, and Hitchcock, William I., The Human Rights Revolution: An International History, Reinterpreting History (New York: Oxford University Press, 2012).

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