144 Department of External Affairs to Evatt

Submission (extract) CANBERRA, 27 March 1946


[matter omitted]


For the last few years, the major organisations handling the problem of refugees have been UNRRA and the Inter-governmental Committee on Refugees. For some time this arrangement has been regarded as unsatisfactory owing to the temporary nature of UNRRA and the limited authority and resources of the Inter-governmental Committee.

The matter was placed on the agenda of the General Assembly as one of urgency [1] and was thrashed out in the appropriate Committee and the Assembly itself. In the discussion deep differences emerged, the principles of the Charter were widely invoked and widely opposing views appeared both on the extent of the problem and the desirability of an international organization. It was clear that the clash of viewpoints was due to the highly political character of the problem, and much of the lengthy debate centred on political and social principles.

Eventually a majority vote passed a resolution calling on the Economic and Social Council to set up a committee to examine the problem thoroughly, and also outlining certain principles for the Committee to observe. [2]


The Council acted on this resolution and established a committee to examine in detail the problem. [3] The Committee is given power to consult with the authorities of UNRRA and Inter-governmental Committee; to establish sub-committees in order to carry out investigations and field trips; it may take evidence from such bodies as it thinks fit. Its work includes preliminary consideration of the question of the recognition or establishment of an international body.

The Chairman suggested for the composition of the committee the following members: Brazil, Canada, China, Belgium, Dominican Republic, France, Lebanon, Netherlands, New Zealand, Peru, Poland, United Kingdom, Soviet Union, United States and Yugoslavia. The Soviet Delegate requested the appointment of Ukraine, Byelorussia and Czechoslovakia, and the United States delegate immediately suggested Australia and Colombia. All these suggestions were adopted. [4]

[matter omitted]

1 See Document is and note . thereto.

2 Assembly Resolution 8(I), 12 February. The recommended principles were acceptance of the international scope and nature of the problem, prohibition of compulsorily returning refugees to countries of origin, and recognition that the main task should be facilitation of early return to countries of origin. No action should be taken which might interfere with punishment of war criminals and traitors, or with decisions of Allied occupation forces on the fate of Germans in other states. See also Document 141, note 2.

3 Economic and Social Council Resolution 1/3, 16 February. The Special Committee on Refugees and Displaced Persons was to meet in London by 31 March, and to take into account the principles summarised in note 2.

4 Hood was appointed Australian representative on the Special Committee.

[AA:A1838/2, 861/1, i]