refugee travel document
What you see here is a travel document according to the agreement from 15 October 1946 – Intergovernmental Conference on the adoption of a travel document for Refugees and Agreement relating to the issue of a travel document to refugees who are the concern of the Intergovernmental Committee on Refugees. Signed in London, on 15 October 1946.
Let’s have a closer look at this peculiar document. The booklet type is a British Travel Document (BE-1806), and still a softcover version; issued to an Austrian lady in Vienna, a hairdresser. The issuing body was the British Element of the Allied Commission for Austria. The document was good to travel to PERU! The issuing date was 29 August 1950. Special is the text on page one, which states in clause 3, “The holder is authorized to return to BRITISH ZONE OF AUSTRIA”!
The lady was obviously a native of Peru. There is an Italian transit visa issued in Vienna on 10 October 1950; an immigration visa for Peru was issued at the Consulate General in Genova, besides some border stamps. Finally, a Peruvian immigration stamp from 1951 when she arrived in her homeland.
This document was specially issued for the British Zone in Austria, which is unique/unprecedented (nothing to find in the UNHCR or other literature on the topic).
Historical development of the refugee travel document refugee travel document
The first international instrument drawn up for refugees’ benefit in 1922 dealt exclusively with identity certificates for refugees for use as travel documents. Such identity certificates were also provided for in various later international instruments adopted between the two World Wars. Originally, these certificates of identity, which came to be known as “Nansen Passports,” were issued on a single sheet of paper and were not, like later refugee travel documents, in booklet form resembling a national passport. The earlier instrument contained no indications as to the period of validity of the certificate of identity and also provided expressly that the certificate did not in any way imply a right for the holder to return to the issuing country without special authorization. In the later instruments, it was specified that the period of validity should normally be one year. Regarding the right of return, provisions were introduced in due course, enabling the holder to return to the issuing country within the certificate’s validity period. Simultaneously, it was specified that limitations on this right of return should only be introduced in exceptional circumstances.
After World War II, many new refugees necessitated adopting a travel document that was more like a passport and more widely recognized. Such a document was provided for in the “London” Agreement relating to a travel document to refugees of 15 October 1946. It was to be in booklet form by the specimen attached to the Agreement. The period of validity of the document was either one or two years at the discretion of the issuing authority. It was to be made valid for the largest possible number of countries. The holder of the travel document was entitled to return to the issuing authority’s territory within its validity period. Only in exceptional cases could this right of return be limited to a period of not less than three months. The provisions relating to the “London Travel Document were indeed very similar to those which now regulate the 1951 Convention Travel Document.
FINAL ACT. SIGNED IN LONDON, ON 15 OCTOBER 1946
The Governments of Argentine, Australia, Belgium, Bolivia, Brazil, Canada, Chile, Czechoslovakia, Denmark, Dominican Republic, Ecuador, France, Greece, India, Luxembourg, The Netherlands, Norway, Poland, Sweden, Switzerland, Union of South Africa, United Kingdom of Great Britain and Northern Ireland, United States of America and Venezuela, Having accepted the invitation of the Director of the Intergovernmental Committee on Refugees to be represented at a Conference with the object of adopting a travel document for refugees, Have appointed the following delegates:
United Kingdom of Great Britain and Northern Ireland: Mr. C. D. Carew Robinson, C.B., Assistant Under-Secretary in the Home Office, Delegate. Mr. W. R. Perks, O.B.E., Chief Inspector, Immigration Branch, Home Office, Substitute Delegate. Miss M. F. Appleby, Member of the Control Office for Germany and Austria.