Go to contents

[Opinion] Refugees and Nansen

Posted June. 27, 2001 09:14,   


The wandering refugees from their home country have become a serious problem of the international society. The number of the refugees, such as the North Korean refugees in Beijing who cannot return to their nation, is estimated up to 22 million. They are refugees or political exiles to escape from the oppression due to their political, religious, ethnical, or ideological reasons. United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees has a history over 80 years. The problem of the refugees had been a major issue of the international society even before the establishment of the United Nations.

Fridtjof Nansen, who was a Norwegian explorer, was the first League of Nations High Commissioner for Refugees. Nansen studied Zoology but later was absorbed in the marine exploration. He had surprised my professional expeditionaries by several expeditions crossing over the Arctic at the risk of his life. He once built a stone cottage roofed with the skin of elephant seals to pass the winter during his Arctic expedition. He had survived the whole winter there only with the meat of elephant seals for food and the whale oil for heat.

He was famous for his staking everything on the expedition. The superhuman spirit might be the power of him to explore the never-trodden field of the international political diplomatic area to help the refugees. He became a Norway`s ambassador in London and later was appointed as the Chairperson of the Norwegian Delegation to the League of Nations in 1920. Nansen was put in charge of the large-scale humanitarian task to repatriate 450,000 European prisoners of war, the majority from the Southeast Europe and the Soviet Union.

Nansen suggested to issue a kind of ID for refugees and reached an international agreement on it. That resulted in the `Nansen passport,` which is like a life jacket for the refugees. In recognition of his distinguished services, Nansen won the Nobel Peace Prize in 1922. However, the problem of the refugee has never resolved. The number of the refugees has increased through the 2nd world war. The situation of the refugees has not improved even with the support of the Refugee Pact. On the day of the first World Refugees Day on June 21, a Nansen of the 21st century is earnestly wanted to straighten out the complicated refugee problems. Would this be only a daydream?