The Eleanor Roosevelt Papers, Digital Edition > My Day
My Day by Eleanor Roosevelt

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NEW YORK.—Yesterday I told you that the Administration is backing the plan of the U.N. High Commissioner for Refugees to create a fund to help integrate refugees in certain communities in Europe where they now are. Perhaps, in view of the fact that we have now begun to cooperate, we ought to know a little more about how the United Nations set up a High Commissioner for this purpose.

In 1950 the General Assembly elected Dr. G.J. Van Heuven Goedhart of the Netherlands as High Commissioner for three years. In 1953 the mandate was renewed for five years and Dr. Goedhart was re-elected. He has 107 staff members, half of them professional officers and half of them secretarial. About 40 per cent of the staff is employed at the headquarters in Geneva and about 60 per cent in branch offices. He maintains 13 branch offices to look after the refugees in his charge. These branches are Bonn, Vienna, Rome, Athens, Cairo, the Hague, Paris, Brussells, Luxemburg, London, New York and Bogata. He has an office in Hong Kong jointly with the Inter-Governmental Committee for European Migration. His budget is $700,000 a year for administration expenses. This is an integral part of the total United Nations budget, and is therefore supervised by an advisory committee on administrative and budgetary questions on which the United States is represented. The whole budget of the United Nations, of course, comes before the Fifth Committee and has to be finally approved by the Plenary Session of the General Assembly.

The High Commissioner does not have charge of any refugees who have been given full rights of citizenship by their country of asylum. For instance, a separate group looks after the Palestinian refugees because they have full rights of citizenship in the Arab countries. The High Commissioner does have charge of all those refugees who have fled from their native land in fear of persecution for political, racial or religious reasons, but who do not have full rights of citizenship in the country where they have taken asylum.

One million refugees were resettled by the International Refugee Organization, but approximately another million remain in Europe. By 1954, about 300,000 of these still lacked adequate housing or jobs and so could not be considered completely assimilated. The large majority of these refugees, of course, come from Eastern European countries now under Communist domination, and there are a few Spanish Republicans and Armenians. Some of them were refugees from Nazi persecution. But a few came from Russia after the Revolution of 1917, so they have been in a state of flux for a very long while. This condition of people coming from the Eastern countries is apt to continue as long as there is a division between East and West. At the present time it is estimated that about 400 refugees a month come across from Communist countries and are acceptable under the High Commissioner mandate. It seems to me that if a permanent solution can be found for any of these refugees, every effort should be made to find it. Without these permanent solutions, the refugees will continue to be in a state of flux.

(Distributed by United Feature Syndicate, Inc.)


Names and Terms Mentioned or Referenced

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About this document

My Day by Eleanor Roosevelt, March 7, 1955

Roosevelt, Eleanor, 1884-1962
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Digital edition created by The Eleanor Roosevelt Papers Project The George Washington University 312 Academic Building 2100 Foxhall Road, NW Washington, DC 20007

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Transcription created from a photocopy of a UFS wire copy of a My Day column instance archived at the Franklin D. Roosevelt Library.