EVIAN-LES-BAINS, France (Jul. 6)
Representatives of 32 governments, gathered here at the initiative of the United States for an historic conference, today heard American delegate Myron C. Taylor in his opening address lay down the broad outlines of the united effort to aid political refugees and sound a solemn warning on the consequences of “the forced and chaotic dumping of unfortunate peoples in large numbers.”
The conference was formally opened by Senator Henri Berenger of France, as chairman, who voiced the conviction that it would produce “practical results of great value” and expressed the gathering’s thanks to President Roosevelt, “the head of the great American democracy,” for his initiative in convening the conference.
In a pithy 1,500-word address, Mr. Taylor stressed the “harrowing urgency” of the refugee problem, traced the history of great migratory movements down to the “compulsory Migration” of today, and proposed the conference adopt the following procedure for its amelioration:
1.–Set up a permanent intergovernmental committee, with headquarters preferably at Paris, having a secretariat whose expenses would be borne by the participating governments;
2.– Focus immediate attention upon the “most pressing problem of political refugees from Germany (including Austria),” with the ultimate objective being to establish an organization concerning itself with all refugees “wherever governmental intolerance shall have created a refugee problem;”
3.– Cooperate with existing organizations for refugee aid, namely, the League of Nations High Commission for Refugees Coming from Germany, and the Nansen Office; inviting League High Commissioner Sir Neill Malcolm and Nansen Office Director Judge Michael Hansson to assist in the committee’s deliberations;
4.– Exchange confidential details on the number and type of immigrants the respective governments are prepared to receive under existing laws and practices;
5.– Undertake documenting of political refugees unable to produce the customary documents;
6.– Consider the various studies made in the respective countries of the problems of aiding emigration, settling and financing of political refugees.
Mr. Taylor proposed that for the initial meeting, “without wishing to set a precedent for future meetings,” two categories of persons be considered within the scope of the conference. These would be
(a) Persons who have not already left Germany (including Austria) but who desire to emigrate by reason of treatment to which they are subjected on account of their political opinions, religious beliefs or racial origin, and
(b) Persons as defined in (a) who have already left Germany and are in process of migration.
BRITAIN PROBING EAST AFRICAN POSSIBILITIES
Immediately following Mr. Taylor’s speech, the British Government’s chief representative, Lord Winterton, announced his Government was examining the possibilities of settlement of its East African colonies.
Without committing himself to the American proposal for establishment of a permanent office, Lord Winterton warned countries of emigration, namely Germany, to facilitate emigration by permitting emigrants to take out some of their capital. He also cautioned other governments not to be under the false impression that persecution of minorities will help them get rid of their minorities by emigration.
Expressing Great Britain’s eagerness to cooperate with the United States and other governments to find a practical means to help the unfortunate, Lord Winterton emphasized, however, that the United Kingdom was not a country of immigration and could admit only a limited number of refugees. He paid tribute to the “great contributions” of refugees to the development of Great Britain, which he said his government recognized, and announced that it was the Government’s intention to explore to what extent refugees could be absorbed. A plan along those lines, Lord Winterton said, would be submitted at a closed session of the conference.
TAYLOR SEES MILLIONS WITHOUT COUNTRY
From his opening remarks to the conclusion, Mr. Taylor held his international audience in rapt attention.
“Some millions of people,” he began, “as this meeting convenes, are, actually or potentially, without a country, The number is increasing daily. This increase is taking place, moreover, at a time when there is serious unemployment in many countries, when there is a shrinkage of subsistence bases and when the population of the world is at a peak. Men and women, of every race, creed and economic condition, of every profession and of every trade, are being uprooted from the homes where they have long been established and turned adrift without thought or care as to what will become of them or where they will go. A major forced migration is taking place, and the time has come when governments — I refer specifically to those governments which have had the problem of political refugees thrust upon them by policies of some of their governments — must act and act promptly and effectively in a long-range program of comprehensive scale.”
After outlining the aims of the conference, Mr. Taylor drew a severe moral indictment of the conduct of those countries which have made its convocation necessary. In it he made analogy between the “disruptive consequences of dumping merchandise upon the world’s economy” and “the forced chaotic dumping of unfortunate peoples in large numbers;” referred significantly to the boycott of the responsible countries; warned that continuance of the enforced “anarchical” migration would result “in general unrest and in a general international strain which will not be conducive to the permanent appeasement to which all peoples earnestly aspire.”
“I need not emphasize,” he declared in conclusion, “that discrimination and pressure against minority groups and disregard of elementary human rights are contrary to the principles of what we have come to regard as the accepted standards of civilization. We have heard from time to time of the disruptive consequences of dumping merchandise upon the world’s economy. How much more disturbing is the forced and chaotic dumping of unfortunate peoples in large numbers. Racial and religious problems are, in consequence, rendered more acute in all parts of the world. Economic retaliation against the countries which are responsible for this condition is encouraged. Sentiment of international mistrust and suspicion is heightened and fear, which is an important obstacle to general appeasement between nations, is accentuated.
“The problem is no longer one of purely private concern. It is a problem for intergovernmental deliberation. If the present currents of migration are permitted to continue to push anarchically upon receiving states and if some governments are to continue to toss large sections of their populations lightly upon a distressed and unprepared world, then there is catastrophic human suffering ahead which can only result in general unrest and in a general international strain which will not be conducive to the permanent appeasement to which all peoples earnestly aspire.”
In the opening address, Senator Berenger emphasized that the conference was not an international forum for declarations by private organizations, but welcomed representatives of refugee organizations and of the press of democratic countries. He announced that a small committee would be appointed to contact delegations of private organizations and receive their memoranda. He appealed to the press to remember that the conference had political aspects and that if ill-considered reports were circulated they might harm the purpose fort which the conference was called.
Stressing the great number of refugees received by France after the war, Senator Berenger, speaking later as head of the French delegation, declared that the French Government, while greatly sympathetic with the purpose of the conference, felt that she had reached the extreme saturation point regarding admission of refugees, but understood the effort proposed by President Roosevelt and would continue her long standing tradition of hospitality, giving every assistance to the conference and being ready to discuss how best to direct the stream of emigration of German and Austrian refugees and to effect their settlement.
“There are many measures — for instance, territorial, shipping, financial, monetary and legal measures — which first have to be gradually and carefully considered by a subcommittee,” M. Berenger said. “This should be the real object of the conference.”
Following M. Berenger, Judge Michael Hansson, Norwegian delegate and president of the Nansen Office, made a declaration affirming that Norway would remain faithful to her tradition of hospitality. He referred to the feeling that creation of a new permanent
office might compete with League organs, but pointed out, however, that it was desirable that some organ be established under the authority of the United States to make contact with the German Government, because this might greatly help the refugee problem.
The session then adjourned.
The governments represented are: Argentina, Australia, Belgium, Bolivia, Brazil, Canada, Chile, Colombia, Costa Rica, Cuba, Denmark, Dominican Republic, Ecuador, Ireland, France, Great Britain, Guatemala, Hispaniola (Haiti), Honduras, Mexico, the Netherlands, New Zealand, Nicaragua, Norway, Panama, Paraguay, Peru, Sweden, Switzerland, the United States, Uruguay and Venezuela.