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Special Message to the Senate Transmitting the Protocol Relating to the Status of Refugees

August 01, 1968

To the Senate of the United States:

With a view to receiving the advice and consent of the Senate to accession, I transmit herewith the Protocol Relating to the Status of Refugees, which was endorsed by the United Nations General Assembly in December 1966 and soon thereafter opened for accession by the Secretary General. Annexed is the text of the 1951 Convention Relating to the Status of Refugees, to which the Protocol relates.

I transmit also, for the information of the Senate, the report by the Secretary of State with respect to the Protocol.

The Protocol constitutes a comprehensive Bill of Rights for refugees fleeing their country because of persecution on account of their political views, race, religion, nationality, or social ties. The United Nations has designated 1968 as International Year for Human Rights, and on October 11, 1967 I proclaimed the year 1968 to be Human Rights Year in the United States. Foremost among the humanitarian rights which the Protocol provides is the prohibition against expulsion or return of refugees to any country in which they would face persecution. Through a number of other specific guarantees, refugees are to be accorded rights which--taken together--would enable them to cease being refugees, and instead to become self-supporting members of free societies, living under conditions of dignity and self respect.

It is decidedly in the interest of the United States to promote this United Nations effort to broaden the extension of asylum and status for those fleeing persecution. Given the American heritage of concern for the homeless and persecuted, and our traditional role of leadership in promoting assistance for refugees, accession by the United States to the Protocol would lend conspicuous support to the effort of the United Nations toward attaining the Protocol's objectives everywhere. This impetus would be enhanced by the fact that most refugees in this country already enjoy the protection and rights which the Protocol seeks to secure for refugees in all countries. Thus, United States accession should help advance acceptance of the Protocol and observance of its humane standards by States in which, presently, guarantees and practices relating to protection and other rights for refugees are less liberal than in our own country.

Accession to the Protocol would not impinge adversely upon established practices under existing laws in the United States. State laws are not superseded by the Convention or Protocol. In two instances where divergences between the Convention and the United States laws would cause difficulty, appropriate reservations are recommended. Refugee problems--in their origin and in their resolution--cannot be divorced from the strife, tensions and oppression which are so detrimental to the well-being of nations and peoples. Once refugees secure asylum, it is essential on humanitarian grounds alone that they be assisted. But emergency assistance-in the absence of rights such as those provided in the Protocol---can degenerate into permanent relief, fostering the refugees' human deterioration and permitting abandonment of responsibility by concerned governments. On the other hand, the provision of such rights can lead to just and lasting solutions to refugee problems. Such solutions in turn can help promote the reduction of tensions, the solution of broader issues and the stability of concerned nations.

United States accession to the Protocol would thus constitute a significant and symbolic element in our ceaseless effort to promote everywhere the freedom and dignity of the individual and of nations; and to secure and preserve peace in the world.

I recommend that the Senate give early and favorable consideration to the Protocol and give its advice and consent to accession, subject to two reservations, as recommended in the report of the Secretary of State.


The White House

August 1, 1968

Note: The Protocol was favorably considered, with reservations, by the Senate on October 4, 1968, and after ratification entered into force on November 1, 1968. It was proclaimed by the President on November 6, 1968. The text is printed in Treaties and Other International Acts Series (TIAS 6577) and in Senate Executive K (90th Cong., 2d sess.). The Senate print also contains the report of the Secretary of State, the texts of the 1967 Protocol and the 1951 Convention, and a list of parties to the Protocol and Convention.

An announcement of the signing by the President of the instrument of accession is printed in the Weekly Compilation of Presidential Documents (vol. 4, p. 1494).

Lyndon B. Johnson, Special Message to the Senate Transmitting the Protocol Relating to the Status of Refugees Online by Gerhard Peters and John T. Woolley, The American Presidency Project

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