30 MAY 1952, Page 18


Displaced Persons

Sit,—My attention has been drawn to a letter from Mr. H. W. Rothschild which appeared in the Spectator of May 9th, 1952, expres- sing concern about the position of those refugees who because of illness, old age or disability or other reasons had not been resettled when the International Refugee Organisation terminated its operations early this year.

I am sure your correspondent did not intend to create the impression that all voluntary work had to cease when he referred to certain British voluntary societies who had to discontinue their work in the field after the end of the I.R.O. It is only fair to say that there are still some twenty-three international voluntary agencies who are still doing their most valuable humanitarian work and to whom refugees can turn for help. It is unfortunately true that these agencies are meeting with increased financial difficulties, and that many have had to reconsider and may have to curtail their programmes, because the grants they formerly received from the I.R.O. are no longer avail- able unless funds are provided from other sources.

The position is indeed a difficult one, and emergency aid is urgently required to enable these societies to bring relief 'to certain groups of refugees whose level of existence barely reaches the minimum stan- dards of human dignity. The United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees is well aware of this. As his mandate limits his responsibility to international protection and promoting permanent solutions to the refugee problem, and the United Nations have not given him any funds with which he could come to the help of refugees through the voluntary agencies, the High Commissioner appealed to the United Nations General Assembly in November last year expres- sing his deep concern about the situation in •which many refugees find themselves, and in February of this year he obtained the permission from that body to make an appeal for funds.

The Governments of Switzerland, Luxembourg and the Federal Republic of Germany have already made contributions, and ogler countries, including the United Kingdom, have indicated their interest and desire to associate themselves with the High Commissioner in this humanitarian task. As for the voluntary organisations, they are in close touch with the High Commissioner, and in most cases help will be given in consultation with them and through their good offices.

May I also refer to your correspondent's assertion that the High Commissioner's Office is only now "under way " and that no provision was made for the interim period between I.R.O, ceasing -operations and the High Commissioner's -Office assuming -responsibility. •The decision to create the Office of the High Commissioner was in fact taken by the Genei-al Assembly of the United Nations on December 14th, 1950, and the Office started its operations on January 1st, 1951. It was only on January 31st, 1952, that the I.R.O. ceased its operations of resettlement, while it had already, during the course of the year, handed over the responsibility for international protection to the High Commissioner's Office.—I am, Sir, yours faithfully, JAMES M. READ. Deputy High Commissioner for Refugees. Palais des Nations, Geneva.