The word of the president
A PASSPORT AND THEN...?
The first document of international scope to be adopted by the community of nations, the passport (Travel Document) that Nansen and then Cohen drew up is at the origin of modern law relating to the protection of refugees.
Adopted in 1922, it was not until 1933 that the prerogatives of freedom of movement (within the same territory) and circulation (at border crossings) were attached to it.
The 1951 Geneva Convention (article 28) obliges signatory States to issue this document, which allows the refugee to travel beyond the borders of the host country that has recognized his status as a refugee.
Printed by the United Nations Refugee Agency, it is up to the States to issue it. In addition to the full identity of the holder, it must mention the international protection it confers on its bearer.
But today, even more than in the past, such a passport is no longer sufficient to fully exercise one's right to freedom of movement, for several reasons, both technical and political.
Firstly, for political reasons, since some States have still not signed the Geneva Convention. And for those who have signed it, not all of them automatically recognize the full refugee status of the bearer when he arrives on their soil. Finally, there are still many countries that limit the possibility and conditions for granting a visa for reasons such as work, study or family reunification.
Secondly, technical, since with the advent of biometric and machine-readable passports, the passport - in its current format - does not meet the most recent criteria, particularly those of the International Civil Aviation Organization (ICAO).
Our Foundation, aware of the fundamental issues related to the recognition of equal freedom of movement for refugees recognized as such by a State and their own nationals, wishes to act usefully by setting itself the following objectives
- To identify State by State or group of States by group of States the existing technical and/or political obstacles ;
- To provide each State or group of States with a Friend of the Court (Amicus Curiae) who is able to assert the binding force of the Convention to the local authorities
His or her "pro bono" mission will consist of working as closely as possible with local actors - facilitators or decision-makers - to try to remove persistent obstacles. In the event of major difficulties, it could then take administrative, legal or judicial action to obtain the progress necessary for the enjoyment of the prerogatives attached to its passport.
This is why we have set ourselves the objective of progressively constituting, and then regularly convening, the Network of Amici Curiae - Article 28, in order to eventually provide it with the full capacity to act locally in full autonomy.
We will of course keep you informed of our progress!
Geneva, May 23, 2022
The aims of the Foundation are:
- To defend and protect the rights of foreigners residing on the territory of Switzerland and the European Union, in compliance with the European Convention on Human Rights and Additional Protocols Nos. 1, 2, 4, and 7.
- To provide support for non-governmental associations and organizations in defending the rights of foreigners in both Switzerland and European Union countries, and to seek documentation about the human rights situation in the countries from which the foreigners in question come.
- To establish and award a literary or artistic prize for works and/or creative artists who have distinguished themselves by their actions or works designed to improve or highlight the status of foreigners in our societies.
- To disseminate Albert Cohen's oeuvre and output, as both a writer and international civil servant, irrespective of language, form or medium, as well as to set up a database about his life and work, to be available to researchers, and to protect moral rights to this oeuvre.
Do you know Albert Cohen ? Maybe you have read « Belle du seigneur » ? But have you ever heard of the Cohen Passport ?
Did you know that in 1946, when he was on the top of his carreer as an international civil servant, the writer left us an unprecedented achievement of civilisation, by endowing all refugees and stateless people with a travel and ID document : the Cohen passport, a passport almost thoroughly endorsed by the famous Geneva Convention of 1951.
For 10 years now, the Albert Cohen Mémoire Foundation has acted to protect this achievement which can be summed up as follows : "Whoever you are, wherever you are, you are entitled to a passport and an ID accompanied by an international protection".
With your help, we will next be in London, Paris, Geneva, to explain to middle schools and highschools students how much this memory work is important for their future as citizens.
In order to never lose sight of our rights and to know as Albert Cohen did, how to be useful, we need all of you. Your generosity is essential to complete this action which will be continued in Switzerland, France and Greece, the three homelands of Albert Cohen.
Wholeheartedly, thank you for your precious support.