Refugees and Displaced Persons
Refugees and Displaced Persons
in international law. The term “refugees” appeared for the first time in international law after World War I (1914–18) to designate persons who had left territories that were under the threat of occupation or were occupied by the enemy or who had been banished from these territories by order of the military or civil authorities during the war. As a result of the forcible transportation of millions of people by the fascists from the territories occupied by fascist Germany and other countries for forced labor during World War II, the category of so-called displaced persons originated. After the war the problem of refugees and displaced persons became especially acute, and the problem of returning them to their homeland as quickly as possible arose. The countries participating in the anti-Hitler coalition signed agreements about the fate of such persons during the war (on Feb. 11, 1945, between the USSR, USA, and England; and on June 29, 1945, between the USSR and France). These agreements stipulated the obligation of the signers to facilitate and hasten by all means possible the repatriation of persons who were displaced as a result of the war (including prisoners of war) and who were in the territory of the parties to the treaty at the time of liberation or later. All displaced persons, whether they were liberated prisoners of war or civilians freed from the enemy yoke, were to be regarded and maintained not as prisoners of war but as free citizens of the allied powers.
Later, the UN dealt with problems of the repatriation of refugees and displaced persons. In its resolutions of Feb. 12 and Dec. 15, 1946, the UN General Assembly called upon all nations that were members of the UN to cooperate in expediting the repatriation of the refugees and displaced persons within their territories. With the aim of fostering cooperation in this area, the International Refugee Organization was established at the UN. (In 1951 it was replaced by the office of the High Commissioner of the UN for Refugees.)
The Soviet Union fulfilled the above-mentioned agreements and the resolutions of the UN General Assembly and repatriated all citizens of countries belonging to the United Nations who were in the USSR. The governments of the Western powers did not cooperate in the repatriation of Soviet citizens and citizens of other socialist countries; on the contrary, they hindered their return by all means possible. In the camps for displaced persons there was widespread propaganda against returning home. International organs dealing with refugee affairs were used by the imperialist powers for goals that had nothing in common with their real purpose. Instead of providing material aid to refugees and displaced persons and expediting their return to their countries, these organizations did everything possible to prevent the refugees and displaced persons who were Soviet citizens and citizens of other socialist states from returning home. Many were forcibly transported to the USA, Canada, Australia, and other countries.
Although displaced persons do not have rudimentary political and civil rights in capitalist countries, for demagogic reasons many capitalist states, including England, France, the Federal Republic of Germany, Switzerland, Denmark, and others signed the conventions on the legal status of refugees (June 28, 1951) and persons without a country (Sept. 28, 1954). These conventions provide for the granting of national status in civil law and, under certain conditions, of a status not less favorable than the general status of foreigners in the country in question, to refugees and displaced persons. In practice, the position of refugees and displaced persons in the majority of capitalist countries continues to be very difficult.
V. I. MENZHINSKII