History

The MIMIO research project examines the emergence of the policies, practices and discourses related to the concept of ‘migration management’; this is achieved by tracing the establishment and the activities of the Intergovernmental Committee for European Migration (ICEM), the first intergovernmental organization accorded the task of regulating migration flows in the post-World War II era. In 1980, ICEM became the Intergovernmental Committee for Migration and in 1989, it was renamed International Organization for Migration (IOM), after having been gradually transformed into one of the main migration management bodies in the contemporary world.

The First World War brought about major developments regarding human mobility as extensive attempts of state regulation were implemented. In the inter-war period, migration flow regulation remained primarily a national concern. However, the League of Nations undertook efforts to regulate refugee relief and the status of stateless persons internationally. The humanitarian crisis caused by mass population displacements during WWII led the Allies to create the United Nations Refugee Relief Agency (UNRRA) in 1943. In 1946, the UNRRA was replaced by the International Refugee Organization (IRO).The Office of the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees was established in 1950 by the United Nations General Assembly. The following year, the United Nations Convention on the Status of Refugees was adopted.

In Europe, despite various stabilization programs and the influx of American financial aid, economic difficulties and high unemployment persisted for several years after the end of World War II. In this context, countries such as Germany, Austria, Italy, the Netherlands and Greece, favored outmigration in order to improve or stabilize domestic economic and political conditions. Outmigration of the unemployed and underemployed was also promoted by the sending states because remittances sent home by those working abroad comprised an important component of total foreign currency inflows. Several European countries were willing to support emigration and thus, set up special departments to facilitate and coordinate this process. However, restrictive measures of the main receiving countries, which had prevailed since the interwar period, hampered these efforts

After 1945, bilateral migration agreements re-emerged to regulate the movement of people for resettlement and work purposes.  The issue of migration was discussed in many multilateral meetings until finally, in December 1951, a conference of interested governments held in Brussels developed a policy framework for the organization of the mass migration of Europeans to overseas countries. It was there that the United States initiated the creation of a provisional intergovernmental body, beyond the framework of the United Nations.  Within the context of the Cold War, it was agreed that the new Committee would be open only to states which agreed on the principle of the “free movement of people”.

This newly-formed organization began functioning in February 1952 as the Provisional Intergovernmental Committee for the Movement of Migrants from Europe (PICMME). Within a year, the PICMME acquired a permanent status and was renamed to Intergovernmental Committee for European Migration (ICEM). The ICEM’s mandate covered refugees and displaced persons, as well as migrants wishing to emigrate from Europe. The ICEM was assigned  the responsibility of transporting refugees and migrants, but was also to assist with health exams, vocational and language training, facilitation of pre- and post-embarkation procedures, information and orientation services, etc. Beyond the above-mentioned operational and financial assistance offered in sending countries, reception facilities, settlement services and labor market placement in destination countries were also to be considered.

The ICEM was founded on the premise that emigration should contribute not only to solving Europe’s “overpopulation” problem by facilitating the orderly migration of large numbers of displaced, unemployed or under-employed persons from Western Europe, but also to the creation of new economic opportunities in countries rich in natural resources, but lacking in human capital. Acting as a bridge between the sending and receiving country, the role of the ICEM was also to assess and accommodate for the needs of the receiving countries. With the creation of the PICMME-ICEM, the relationship between migration and development, the so-called “migration-development nexus”, came to prominence as a primary policy issue and objective.

The MIMIO project covers the birth and consolidation of the ICEM as the main global player in migration management in the post-WWII world. Extensive archival research has retrieved material related to the first decade of the organization’s lifespan. During these years, the administrative and operational foundations of the Committee were set, while several migration or refugee ‘crises’ were confronted. The following table presents a rough timeframe of the sessions held within the first decade of the ICEM’s lifespan, highlighting the main issues that dominated the discussions within.

 

 

 

 Date

Event

Main issues/outcomes

26/11/1951-05/12/1951

Brussels Migration Conference

Establishment of the PICMME, including 16 member states: Australia, Austria, Belgium, Bolivia, Brazil, Canada, Chile, France, Germany, Greece, Italy, Luxembourg, the Netherlands, Switzerland, Turkey, the USA.

06-08/12/1951

1st Session of the PICMME in Brussels

Drafting of the Rules of Procedure and a Plan to facilitate the movement of surplus populations from countries of Western Europe (including Greece) to countries affording resettlement opportunities overseas.

18-23/02/1952

2nd Session of the PICMME in Geneva

Appointment of Pierre Jacobsen as Deputy Director; drafting of Staff Regulations

10-13/06/1952

3rd Session of the PICMME in Washington D.C.

Nomination of Hugh Gibson as Director; establishment of a Sub-Committee on Finance.

13-21/10/1953

4th Session of the PICMME in Geneva

The  PICMME will continue to exist but it is renamed ICEM;   revision of Financial Regulations; Trieste refugees issue.

16-24/04/1953

5th Session of the ICEM in Geneva

European refugees residing outside Europe.

12-21/10/1953

6th Session of the ICEM in Venice

Report on Land Settlement; adoption of ICEM Constitution.

26/04-01/05/1954

7th Session of the ICEM in Geneva

Establishment of an Advisory Committee on International and National Organizations.

30/11-04/12/1954

8th Session of the ICEM in Geneva(1st Session of the Council and the Executive Committee)

The ICEM Constitution is put into force; establishment of an Intergovernmental Sub-Committee on the Co-ordination of Transport.

27/04-05/05/1955

2nd Session of the Council and the Executive Committee of the ICEM in Geneva

Appointment of Harold Tittmann as Director; admission of the Federation of Rhodesia & Nyasaland and New Zealand as members of the ICEM.

06-22/10/1955

3rd Session of the Council and the Executive Committee of the ICEM in Geneva

Election of the first Executive Committee; adoption of Staff Regulations for Employees.

01-26/02/1956

4th Session of the Council and the Executive Committee of the ICEM in Geneva

Admission of Uruguay and Spain as members of the ICEM.

20/09-05/10/1956

5th Session of the Council and the Executive Committee of the ICEM in Geneva

Discussions on Land Settlement projects; admission of the Union of South Africa as a member of the ICEM.

14-18/01/1957

6th (Special) Session of the Executive Committee of the ICEM in Geneva

Hungarian Refugee Program.

28/03-10/04/1957

7th Session of the Executive Committee of the ICEM in Geneva

Hungarian Refugee Program; Far East Program.

08-12/04/1957

6th Session of the Council of the ICEM in Geneva

Hungarian refugees in Yugoslavia.

12-14/08/1957

8th (Special) Session of the Executive Committee of the ICEM in Geneva

Refugees of European origin in the Far East.

26/09-12/10/1957

9th Session of the Executive Committee of the ICEM in Geneva

Refugees of European origin in the Far East.

07-12/10/1957

7th Session of the Council of the ICEM in Geneva

Appointment of Barthélémy Georges Epinat as Deputy Director.

28/04-13/05/1958

10th Session of the Executive Committee of the ICEM in Geneva

Pilot projects to increase the absorptive capacity of immigration countries

08-14/05/1958

8th Session of the Council of the ICEM

Appointment of Marcus Daly as Director.

04-12/11/1958

11th Session of the Executive Committee of the ICEM in Geneva

Relations with international trade unions and employers' organizations.

13-21/11/1958

9th Session of the Council of the ICEM in Geneva

Application for membership of the government of Panama.

02-07/04/1959

12th Session of the Executive Committee and 10th Session of the Council of the ICEM in Geneva

Collection of International agreements and national legislation related to emigration, immigration and nationality.

03-20/11/1959

13th Session of the Executive Committee and 11th Session of the Council of the ICEM in Geneva

Admission of the government of Ecuador as a member of the ICEM.

05-14/01/1960

14th (Special) Session of the Executive Committee of the ICEM in Geneva

Financial situation and policies of the ICEM regarding refugee movements.

26/04-13/05/1960

15th Session of the Executive Committee and 12th Session of the Council of the ICEM

Increase in receiving migrant/refugee contributions; Establishment of a Sub-Committee on Budget and Finance.

23/11-09/12/1960

16th Session of the Executive Committee and 13th Session of the Council of the ICEM

Social security for migrant workers; technical assistance to Latin American countries.

03-17/05/1961

17th Session of the Executive Committee and 14th Session of the Council of the ICEM

Admission of the United Kingdom as a member of the ICEM.

09-27/10/1961

18th Session of the Executive Committee and 15th Session of the Council of the ICEM

Election of Bastian W. Haveman as Director; government of Sweden withdraws from the ICEM.

29/03-13/04/1962

16th Session of the Council of the ICEM

Election of Joseph Brendan McFadden as Deputy Director.