Between 1922 and 1938, the "Nansen Passport" allowed stateless people to make a new life.
On January 27, President Donald Trump signed a sweeping executive order that, among other provisions, barred all refugees from entering the United States for 120 days (and banned Syrian refugees indefinitely). As the ban, currently stayed by order of a federal judge, makes its way up through the U.S. court system, refugees all over the world watch closely, their futures hanging in the balance.
The current refugee crisis is the largest the world has ever seen—but it's far from unprecedented. Back in the 1920s, civil war in Russia and genocide in the Ottoman Empire left millions of families stateless, seeking asylum in countries already stretched thin by the ravages of war. Charged with preventing catastrophe, an idealistic explorer named Fridtjof Nansen changed hundreds of thousands of lives with a piece of paper: the Nansen Passport. Although it stopped short of granting citizenship, the Nansen Passport allowed its holders to cross borders to find work, and protected them from deportation. Some experts are calling for a similar solution today.
Born in Norway in 1861, Nansen was an unlikely diplomat. A zoologist by training, he made a name for himself as a polar explorer—in 1888, he led the first team to cross Greenland by foot, and four years later, he traversed the Arctic Ocean by purposefully freezing his ship into an ice floe. When he aged out of constant adventuring, Nansen brokered his considerable fame into a political career, initially representing Norway in disputes with Sweden, and later serving as the country's ambassador to Britain.
At the end of World War I, Nansen threw himself into existing efforts to create an international peacemaking body—what would eventually become the Paris Peace Conference, and then the League of Nations. In 1920, the League put Nansen in charge of a particularly tricky post-war problem: figuring out what to do with those displaced by conflict.
As the new High Commissioner for the Repatriation of Prisoners-of-War, Nansen negotiated for the return of hundreds of thousands of POWs held in Germany and Siberia. While working to secure their release, Nansen's eyes were opened to another horror of war. "Never in my life have I been brought into touch with so formidable an amount of suffering," he told the League in November of 1920, urging his fellow members to "prevent for evermore" the type of conflict that originally led to it.
But those gears were already in motion, and another displacement crisis loomed. In December of 1921, it hit: Vladimir Lenin, whose Bolshevik army had shocked the world by winning the Russian Civil War, revoked citizenship from Russian expatriates who had fled the country during the conflict. This left some 800,000 people stateless, dispersed throughout Eastern Europe. "The legal status of these people was vague and the majority of them were without means of subsistence," wrote Fosse and Fox. "It was considered unacceptable that in the 20th century there should be such a huge number of men, women and children living in Europe unprotected by any system recognized by international law."
Once again, the League of Nations put Nansen on the case, appointing him High Commissioner for Russian Refugees. He quickly began breaking down the problem. Neighboring countries, especially those who were dealing with their own conflicts, balked at the prospect of taking in tens of thousands of poor, stateless people. But if the refugees were sent back to now-Soviet Russia, they could face political persecution, imprisonment, and even execution.
Continue your reading here please: https://cdn.ampproject.org/c/www.atlasobscura.com/articles/nansen-passport-refugees.amp
Wellicht is mijn boekenblog ook interessant: http://dutchysbookreviews.blogspot.nl/l
Now reading: A delightful, well-written, and vastly informative ethnographic study, this is an account of Fernea's two-year stay in a tiny rural village in Iraq,
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