International Interview; Dr. Auguste Lindt, newly-appointed UN High Commissioner for Refugees; WNYC
Your City Station and Cooperation with the Foreign Press Association brings you another international interview. This transcribed series is presented in an effort to help acquaint our listeners with the changing trends in world opinion. Each week a panel of foreign correspondents representing the press of various countries interviews a different, distinguished guest. Not to introduce our guest in tonight's international interview, here is Seymour and Siegel, Director of Radio Communications for the City of New York, Mr. Siegel. Good evening ladies and gentlemen. Tonight's international interview, the last one for this year, focuses on a major problem which has grown more pressing during these last few months of 1956, the acute problem of refugees, which has mounted even more alarmingly with the Hungarian crisis. Now faced with the gigantic task of solving the problem of some half million refugees, is Dr. August Lint, who leaves early next week for Switzerland to take up his post as United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees.
The former Swiss observer to the United Nations and ex-newspaper man was elected by acclimation to the post of High Commissioner by the General Assembly on December 10th. And here to interview Dr. Lint about his forthcoming gigantic mission are a panel of distinguished correspondents representing leading papers from abroad who will introduce themselves. I'm Charles Lynch of the Canadian Broadcasting Corporation. My name is Hans Steinhitz, I'm the correspondent of the Bundt in Bern, Switzerland. I am George Bronco, Zutvestfunk in Germany. Sven Oman of the Dawgens Newheter of Stockholm. All right, now the first question for Mr. Ranco. Mr. Lint, what are the immediate tasks which are awaiting you in Geneva? The classical hard questions, because there are so many tasks. We start with hard questions. I see that. I think perhaps the most urgent one is of course the Hungarian refugees, because they are continuing flooding into Austria, about 1,200, 1,500 every day.
Nobody knows if that will decrease soon, if it will increase, how long it will go on. And that of course accumulates every day a nice bunch of new problems. On the other hand, and I think that's very important to say that it's a question of the old refugees, refugees who have been now partly in camps since the end of the World War, where the High Commissioner's Office has tried many ways to integrate some international economy, to find countries of immigration for them, but unfortunately up to now, they are still about 70,000 of those old refugees living in camps. And there is a special fund created by my predecessor, the UNREF fund, to teach some jobs, to get some out of camps, but I think the heartbreaking thing about my job is this, that when the old camps are emptying very slowly and much too slowly for my taste, there are now new camps filling again with the refugees from Hungary.
And I think that really an international community living in the world of this century and living in general in health economic conditions should be able to take everybody out of camps, that this world has no more camps with refugees in them. Where are these old camps? The old camps are mostly in Germany, Austria, and there is a special problem for this country that it has a very big refugee population already, and on this is no superimposed, the refugee population from Hungary, there is Italy, there is Greece, but there are also, under the mandate of the High Commissioner, refugees in the Middle East and some in China. Mr. Lynch. Sir, would you say there are more refugees today than there were, say, at the end of World War II in 1945 and 46?
More. Flotchertly not. No, you had sent this enormous refugee population, which had accumulated during the war years with deportation, transportations, migrations, and up to now, fortunately, we have not reached this figure. You know that from Hungary emigrated up to today, up to today, about 150,000, and we have this old refugee population under the mandate of the High Commissioner, numbering about a quarter million. Well, after the war, we had to deal with millions. This question from Mr. Spahn Orman. Dr. Lynch, I understand that you have already had time to acquaint yourself on the spot with the new Hungarian refugee problem, and also that you have just come back from a visit to Washington, in view of the many pronouncements from American government spokesmen and officials, one of the obvious large role that would have to be played by the United States in any
aid program. Would you tell us what you bring back from Washington in that respect, at least? Are you encouraged by what you've learned? Mr. Orman, I am coming back from Washington, very encouraged, and I was also very encouraged by the talk I had to honor of having in Vienna with Vice President Nixon. One thing is absolutely certain that the United States of America have responded to the various appeals of the General Assembly and to the emergency situation in the most generous way. And my office specially had occasion to witness what this generosity meant, because I was given the opportunity to hand over to the Chancellor of Austria, Mr. Rab, $2 million in order to help the Austrian government to put camps in order, which will be taken over by the League of Red Cross societies, and from the same source, the United States
of America, another $2 million were given to the High Commissioner in order to help the League of Red Cross societies to run those camps. The Red Cross society is already now in Austria, look after 25,000 refugees, through the financial help of the High Commissioner, the source in this case being the United States. The League will take over 20,000 more, and so will be able to look after 45,000 refugees say from the 1st of February on the 1st of August. Now to follow that up, Dr. Lindt, in spite of what you just have been saying, the United States action in favor of refugees so far has been pretty much under fire, both here in this country and abroad. And I take it from your words that you are encouraged of a change or an increase of emphasis in the various humanitarian actions from this government to improve the present situation.
But wouldn't you say that comparatively speaking, what small Western European countries have been doing for the Hungarian refugees has been more impressive than what the United States has government has been doing so far? I think it's very difficult to compare on a statistical basis what different countries do in an emergency. And I think that the United States has really done something which is outstanding. At a very short time, it has opened the frontiers of the United States to 21,500 refugees from Hungary. Saving quite a number of red tape regulations so that in a record time those 21,500 could register and that the transport is taking place also at a very quick rate. But it seems to me that until a new legislation for immigration is through Congress, it would be extremely helpful if a second contingent could be granted by the President.
And there comes perhaps another problem which is a psychological and human one. You just mentioned that many European countries took also in a very quick response refugees to their country, France and so on and so on. But your own country has been doing in a very little while, has been splendid and considering that it is a small country, it was a fantastic thing that Switzerland has been doing. Switzerland tried to follow the tradition. But what I wanted to say is still this, that now all the Hungarian refugees in other countries and Austria saw that those who had been left behind in Austria had a chance to emigrate to what they call Usha, the United States of America. And that is really the biggest attraction for the refugees. So those in the other country said we want to go back to Austria in order to have also a chance.
And therefore it might perhaps be quite interesting to study the possibilities that the next contingent of immigration visas will be given proportionately to all European countries harboring refugees from Hungary at the moment. And I think this conception is rather interesting, that there is the first asylum is not really Austria. The first asylum is Europe. And it has to be treated as such. Mr. Lent, would you say that the key to the solution of the refugee problem lies largely with an expansion or a liberalization of immigration policies by the United States? I think one shouldn't talk on the one country. There is Canada too, also an immigration country, there is Australia, there is New Zealand, there are certain Latin American countries also who are offering quotas. And I think for all the also, the same thing applies, the immigration regulations should be liberalized and simplified.
Because what is important now is that we don't get in Austria and in the different European countries, this camp mentality, which is a worse thing for every human being. And the quicker anything can be done, the better it is, I think for everybody. Mr. Ranko, it seems that many Hungarian refugees want to go one day back to their homeland, that means they don't want to settle permanently as immigrants in a new country. What is to do in this case? Well, Mr. Ranko, it's very difficult to answer that because up to now, as far as I know, there hasn't been any mail polls, any gallop polls taken amongst the refugees. And the general impression at the moment really is that a very great majority would like to immigrate, especially to the United States of America. But again, one has not to forget that those refugees have just left their country. They hadn't really time to sink very much.
And there might be changes again in the proportion of those who want to stay in Europe and also want to go overseas, when they had time really to sink what their fate will be. Mr. Armin? Mr. Hike Commissioner, you said that one should not talk just about one country, but about many countries. And obviously in this acute problem of the Hungarian refugees, we have witnessed great willingness of many countries to do their bit to help. What I was thinking of was this, that in the past few years it seems that the great problem has been that the refugees that were left in the camps were people who nobody wanted. Do you feel that this new approach to the refugee problem that has been activated, so to speak, by the Hungarian problem could have any good lasting effects as to the general attitude towards refugees and would be a help even for the ones who have been left from
earlier periods? I definitely hope so, Mr. Roman. And that's exactly what we tried to do is to utilize this interest for helping solutions for the old refugees. And you just mentioned those regulations for the Hungarian refugees and you mentioned those old refugees nobody wanted. Yet if the same liberal regulations could be applied to the old refugees, many of those could emigrate. But they cannot emigrate under the strict immigration laws. Yeah, but isn't that largely a question of their economic usefulness? The so-called hard core of refugees left over in the camps is, I understand, to a large number, composed of old people or sick people or people with tuberculosis or people who for some physical reason have difficulties to find a country of definite asylum, while the bulk of the hergierian refugees now in Austria are people in the prime of age or young people
and very useful in all those countries which suffer under shortage of labor. So there is an element of economic usefulness coming in. Isn't that an issue which makes it comparatively easy to settle the hergierians and comparatively difficult to settle the hard core of the older ones? So there's no doubt about that. There is this very distinctive difference between the two groups. But anyhow, you mentioned that amongst the old refugees there are many old people. There are old people, but there are also young ones. And there are many cases where immigration was not possible because of one member of the family. That's an old member, having had TB, having a TB scar, and the family not wanting to separate so whole family could not immigrate. And if there, one could be a little bit liberal, quite a few, could immigrate, and I think be useful immigrants.
My office in Vienna for instance told me that if the same criteria could be applied to the old refugees, as they are applied now, to the hergierian refugees, about 40 to 50 percent could qualify. That's immigrants. Question from Mr. Lynch. Sir, you mentioned the need for countries to waive red tape in order to take care particularly of the problem of the Hungarian refugees. How would you say Canada had conducted herself in this emergency? Canada made a very generous offer, generous because it is unlimited, as far as numbers are concerned. I'm not really acquainted with what regulations apply. I am specially gratified by one thing which is introduced in Austria. That is that they register their people in the camps. Embassy officials go out to the camps instead of asking the people, the refugees, to go from the camps to Vienna and queue up in front of the embassy. And that was just a phenomenon which created some difficulties.
That so many people in the camps said we have to go to Vienna in order to have any chance to get an immigration visa, left the camp and walked through the streets of Vienna and saw the Austrian government and the Austrian population are extraordinarily able in improvisation. It is very difficult to foresee how many refugees should be fed in Vienna in special kitchen every day because its wandering population changes very rapidly. And therefore I think that this initiative by the Canadian government is an excellent one. And I hope it will be followed by other embassies. Are they the only people that are doing this? That's a moment yes. Mr. Arman. Dr. Lindt, in spite of all the efforts that are being made, it seems obvious that quite a large number of refugees will have to stay in Austria for a considerable time. How do you see that problem? I mean how is Austria going to be able to acquit itself of that? It has a considerable burden of refugees already from the earlier period.
It is very difficult to know how many will finally have to stay for a considerable time in Austria. And there is one thing absolutely clear, that's a Austrian government which spent up to now about $7 million. Unforeseen $7 million. On the Hungarian refugees will not be able to carry on this burden. And there I think that different governments and I hope through the High Commission will have to help the voluntary organizations and the government itself. The figure might be, and that's a general estimate, around $60,000. And was that $60,000 refugees? $60,000 refugees? Ah, Hungary. All right. And Dr. Lindt, while you're at it, would you indicate if you would know what your guess would be as to the cost of taking care of 60,000 refugees every day? You count about 70 cents, maintenance per day per head.
No, I'm very bad at mathematics, but I think I have opposite me Mr. Lindt. Well, we've been using a figure of $1 a day, Dr. Rather loosely, it's been said that on the whole it costs Austria $1 a day per refugee and if they're going to have $60,000 then you would figure $60,000 a day, as long as they have them. Yes. I think the $1 is possibly quite right because 70 cents are maintenance. And so you need perhaps 30% putting the camps in order, and also some medical treatment would be in the 70 cents already. But I think altogether $1 is about right. Dr. Lindt, you spoke about the generous effort that offer that Canada made and a number of other countries. Now, I personally have been a bit disappointed in seeing that while a number of countries, traditional immigration countries and traditional countries with the liberal policy on that respect, have been very generous and have responded to the situation that other countries did not.
And that is the picture is kind of spotty in that respect. I was disappointed in seeing that countries which claim always to be in the first row of humanitarian efforts have declared themselves desinterested in the Hungarian refugee issue and left it to be what is commonly called the white men's burden. Would you share a certain feeling of disappointment with me and others, I guess, that the office have not more widely spread among the five continents? I don't really agree. I think the response was unique. I don't remember any emergency, where the response was so fast. Now we hope very much that more countries will also feel that they should participate in this thing because I think what is important to know is that the refugee problem is not a European problem. So most of the refugees at the moment are living and coming from Europe.
But I think it's really an international problem. And it can be solved when all of some will work together. And there I think people like you journalists can help very much to appeal again and perhaps even to put certain pressure on countries and on public opinion. That's a work has to do. Mr. Ranco, something about red tape, Mr. Rin, you were Swiss observer here. You have worked as chairman for the children fond of the United Nations. You were president of the UN Opium Conference in 1953. But you are Swiss citizen. That means a non-member state. How does it come that a citizen of a non-member state was elected as High Commissioner for refugees? Mr. Ranco, I think you should ask this question to the members of the assembly who elected me. Mr. Lynch. Dr. Lynch, are you planning to visit Ottawa before you go to Geneva to make your headquarters there?
My plans are not finalized yet, but I have some intention. And I hope very much to visit Ottawa before I go to Geneva. What would you want to talk about in Ottawa when you're there? About many things, especially in relation with Hungarian refugees, but also with old refugees. On that Dr. Lynch, I know that a matter of priority here are the European refugees. What about the refugees in the Middle East that you mentioned? Are you giving any consideration to that problem? We do indeed. There are stateless refugees from the time of the World War who are spread over the Middle East, some of them at some moment have no work and their arises are very rapid relief problem. There are others who have to emigrate, who become refugees, and who of course come under my mandate, and there the High Commission has to help the voluntary organisations dealing with those refugees financially and with Councilman Nissez.
But do you have any specific plans in mind for handling the solution to the refugee problem in the Middle East? In the Middle East, there is at some moment in certain countries a strong emigration of refugees into other countries. And there again arises a permanent problem for old refugees, that's to find for them a home where they finally can become nationalized and become citizens of this country. And emigration is always the best solution to the refugee problem. Specifically Dr. Lindt, are you concerned with reports about stateless Jews in Egypt who are in large numbers placed in the position where they will have to find another country to live in? I think it's very difficult to foresee definitely what the future will be. The problem at the moment for those people is that they have lost their jobs. Quite many of them had the possibility of integrating themselves more or less into the economy
of the country. For the moment that has been stopped. And I think we have to see what the future will bring. But for the moment we have to bring relief to those people. Mr. Steinit? Now Dr. Lindt seems to be my fate to be a little bit the Cassandra here around the stable today. I wonder if your office is equipped to deal with future emergencies of the similar character as that may arise actually any day as they did arise unexpectedly in Hungary. It is a fact for instance that from Eastern Germany to Western Germany the flow of refugees is one wave after the other now already for six or eight years going on or even more. So we may be in a situation next year or in six months that from other Eastern European countries in a parallel development to that of Hungary thousands and untold thousands of refugees will point to the West.
Would your office be prepared to deal with such future emergencies? Nobody knows what the emergency is. Will arise. I think it would be a good policy always to count with certain emergencies arising. And to prepare especially financially. And it seems to me that the High Commission should have at this disposal a considerable emergency fund. And perhaps this is added interest in the refugee question. It is perhaps easier now to really find money for creating such a fund. I would just like to make something clear about the terms of reference of the High Commissioner. As refugees are considered Zaws who when they leave their country have no nationality. Do not qualify as refugees according to the terms of reference. Zaws refugees or they are refugees in the normal way of speaking who go to a country in which they have automatically right of citizenship. As was in Germany as exactly.
Mr. Lynch. So the word refugee seems to be very much overworked and I think a lot of people find it an unpleasant and very impersonal word. Have you any nomination for some other term that could be used to describe these people? They are people. I agree very much with what you said but I would be very glad to have suggestions. What is the difference? What is the difference? We used to hear the word displaced person a good deal. How do you define the difference between a displaced person and a refugee? Well, it seems to me always that words have the same fate as coins. They get used and lose in use personality and especially human personality. Remember very well the displaced persons very soon they are not even displaced persons anymore. So they have just taken off in two letters, DPs which is still worse than I think refugees. You mentioned something about stateless persons. Is there any intention at all of reviving something like the old Nansen passport or
some indication of identification for these people? There is a refugee convention which allows the office to issue passports which are somewhat similar to the Nansen passport. Are there still Nansen passports in existence by the way Dr. Lentz? There are still. Just to coming back to the terms of reference you said a little while ago a person becomes a refugee when he crosses the border of his home country and loses his nationality. And I take it that he stops being a refugee as soon as he can settle for good with all immigration papers and permits in good order in a country of asylum. And he stops being a refugee and is taken off your shoulders, is that correct? As soon as he really has again a nationality, as long as he is stateless, even integrated he still might need diplomatic protection.
Is stateless settler in a country where he has all government paper and working permits and all that in good order? Yes. Because he has no embassy behind him and in this way the high commission replaces the diplomatic representation. Well, I'm sorry to interrupt but our time is up, ladies and gentlemen you've been listening to another WNYC international interview with our guest, the distinguished Dr. August Lentz, newly appointed United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees. Starting in the questioning with George Rancau of the Southwest German radio, Hans Steinets of De Boon, Switzerland, Sven Orman of Dagens Nietto of Stockholm, Sweden, and Charles Lynch of the Canadian Broadcasting Corporation. Thank you, Mr. Siegel. You've been listening to international interview. Our moderator was Seymour N. Siegel, Director of Radio Communications for the City of New York.
We are interested in your reaction to these internationally oriented press conferences, right to international interview, WNYC, New York 7, and join us again next Friday evening at 6 o'clock for another of these transcribed programs. International interview is presented in cooperation with the Foreign Press Association and is produced by Mary McDonnell for your city station. We invite you to stay tuned now for sports for New Yorkers. This is the Municipal Broadcasting System.
- International Interview
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- WNYC (Radio station : New York, N.Y.)
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- The Walter J. Brown Media Archives & Peabody Awards Collection at the University of Georgia (Athens, Georgia)
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- This is an interview with newly-appointed United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees Dr. Auguste Lindt. Refugees from Hungary are discussed. This predates the outbreak of revolution on October 23 and invasion by the Soviet Union on November 4. Lindt would play a lead role in aiding Hungarian refugees during the crisis.
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- "A unique, informative series, WNYC's 'INTERNATIONAL INTERVIEW' is specifically designed to bring listeners a closer knowledge of world affairs. Presented in cooperation with the Foreign Press Association, the weekly program features an exclusive interview with a prominent personality in the news each week -- questioned by a news panel compromised of foreign correspondents from various overseas countries, with an American as moderator. "The unrehearsed press conference series has kept the public more fully apace with the rapidly changing world--through first-hand reports on vital issues by authoritative spokesmen. Many headlines have been made through this stimulating series 'But more important, the program has helped to crystallize world news for the general public, aiding in the interpretation of current events to help people understand the constantly changing world. "Through its objective global periscope, WNYC's 'International Interview' is fulfilling its aim of bringing people a closer knowledge of each other, through better insight on world news and events."--1956 Peabody Awards entry form.
- Discussion of refugees from Hungary is a focus of part of the discussion. This predates the outbreak of the revolution, October 23rd and invasion by the Soviet Union on November 4th. From: BOOK REVIEW A history of helping the displaced The UNHCR and World Politics: A Perilous Path, by Gil Loescher "Independence and expansion under Lindt and Schnyder (1956-65) Under Swiss diplomat Auguste Lindt, "UNHCR's orientation became clearly pro-American". (p 81) US government financial and diplomatic backing of UNHCR operations rose to great heights during the Soviet invasion of Hungary, when the international community specifically designated UNHCR as the "lead agency" to oversee a large-scale humanitarian emergency. Simultaneously, Lindt displayed independent action by persuading Western states that the repatriation of Hungarian minors in the interests of family unity must take precedence over Cold War calculations; this action earned the respect of the socialist governments of Yugoslavia and Hungary. "
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Producing Organization: WNYC (Radio station : New York, N.Y.)
Speaker: Lindt, Auguste
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- Chicago: “International Interview; Dr. Auguste Lindt, newly-appointed UN High Commissioner for Refugees; WNYC,” 1956-05-13, The Walter J. Brown Media Archives & Peabody Awards Collection at the University of Georgia, WNYC, WGBH, American Archive of Public Broadcasting (GBH and the Library of Congress), Boston, MA and Washington, DC, accessed June 8, 2023, http://americanarchive.org/catalog/cpb-aacip-80-04rjf1z9.
- MLA: “International Interview; Dr. Auguste Lindt, newly-appointed UN High Commissioner for Refugees; WNYC.” 1956-05-13. The Walter J. Brown Media Archives & Peabody Awards Collection at the University of Georgia, WNYC, WGBH, American Archive of Public Broadcasting (GBH and the Library of Congress), Boston, MA and Washington, DC. Web. June 8, 2023. <http://americanarchive.org/catalog/cpb-aacip-80-04rjf1z9>.
- APA: International Interview; Dr. Auguste Lindt, newly-appointed UN High Commissioner for Refugees; WNYC. Boston, MA: The Walter J. Brown Media Archives & Peabody Awards Collection at the University of Georgia, WNYC, WGBH, American Archive of Public Broadcasting (GBH and the Library of Congress), Boston, MA and Washington, DC. Retrieved from http://americanarchive.org/catalog/cpb-aacip-80-04rjf1z9