Albert Cohen, fondation Mémoire Albert Cohen
Mémoire Albert Cohen Foundation

MAX MAMOU

The word of the president

A PASSPORT FOR REFUGEES?

PAST, PRESENT AND FUTURE ISSUES

 

 

OUR FOUNDATION REALLY WANTED TO MARK THE SEVENTIETH ANNIVERSARY OF THE CONVENTION. IT ALL STARTED WITH AN IDEA, IN 2007, THE YEAR THE LATE MYRIAM CHAMPIGNY – ALBERT COHEN’S DAUGHTER – AND GERARD VALBERT – HIS FRIEND AND BIOGRAPHER, CREATED THE MEMOIRE ALBERT COHEN FOUNDATION IN ORDER TO PERPETUATE HIS HUGE LEGACY.

  

THE 70th ANNIVERSARY OF THE CONVENTION COINCIDES WITH THE 75th ANNIVERSARY OF THE LONDON AGREEMENT.

 

THEREFORE, IT WAS THE PERFECT OCCASION TO FOCUS ON THE ISSUE DISCUSSED TONIGHT. 

 

ALBERT COHEN, AS DIRECTOR OF THE PROTECTION DIVISION, HAD THE FOLLOWING WORDS DURING HIS PRESENTATION TO THE INTERNATIONAL ORGANISATION FOR THE REFUGEES CONFERENCE IN 1949:  

“IF THERE IS ONE HUMAN BEING WHO NEEDS PROTECTION,

IT IS TRULY THE REFUGEE.  WE ARE NOT A STATE, BUT EVERYTHING THAT WE CAN DO,

WE SHALL DO” HE ALSO USED TO QUOTE THE FOLLOWING PROVERB, ALLEGEDLY RUSSIAN:

 

“A PERSON IS BUILT WITH THREE THINGS: A BODY, A SOUL AND A PASSPORT”.

 

THESE TWO QUOTES ALLOW US TO GRASP THE POLITICAL AND DEEPLY HUMANIST VISION THAT COHEN – AND BEFORE HIM, NANSEN – USED TO SHARE.  

 

BUT WHY THIS TRAVEL DOCUMENT IS ESSENTIAL DURING THESE TROUBLED TIMES, ESPECIALLY SINCE THE WORST MIGHT STILL BE YET TO COME?

 

IN SHORT, THE VISION IS THE FOLLOWING:  IT IS ABSOLUTELY NECESSARY TO ACKNOWLEDGE THAT EVERY REFUGEE HAS THE RIGHT TO OWN - NOT ONLY ID DOCUMENTS - BUT ALSO A DOCUMENT THAT ALLOWS THEM TO TRAVEL FREELY.

 

THIS CONCEPT WAS CREATED A CENTURY AGO. AND YET, IT IS UP TO OUR GENERATION TO GUARANTEE THE EFFECTIVENESS OF THIS RIGHT AND THE PREROGATIVES THAT GO WITH IT, MORE THAN EVER BEFORE. 

 

YOU MOST LIKELY KNOW THAT OUR FOUNDATION DOESN’T AIM TO CLAIM RIGHTS THAT DON’T EXIST.

 

THAT IS WHY OUR FOUNDATION WORKS TO ENSURE THAT THE EXISTING RIGHTS ARE SCRUPULOUSLY APPLIED. 

 

AT THE SAME TIME, WE ALSO WANT THE EXISTING RIGHT OF THE REFUGEE’S FREEDOM OF MOVEMENT TO BECOME A FUNDAMENTAL RIGHT. 

 

WE ARE CONVINCED – AS THE UNPD HAS BEEN SINCE 2009 – THAT THE FUNDAMENTAL NATURE OF THIS RIGHT WILL OFFER MORE LEGAL SECURITY FOR THE COUNTRIES THAT HOST THEM, WHETHER TEMPORARILY OR PERMANENTLY. 

 

CONSEQUENTLY, OUR FOUNDATION PROPOSES TO EXPLORE NEW APPROACHES TO GUARANTEE THE EFFECTIVENESS AND THE ENFORCEABILITY OF THIS RIGHT. 

 

LET US RECALL THE THREE OBSTACLES EVERY REFUGEE FACES WHEN WISHING TO CROSS A BORDER:

 

1/ BEING RECOGNISED AS A REFUGEE

2/ HAVING A TRAVEL DOCUMENT, A “PASSPORT”

3/ GETTING THE NECESSARY VISA FOR THE COUNTRY HE WANTS TO GO TO.

 

WHY MUST THIS PREROGATIVE BE EFFECTIVE?

 

BECAUSE WITHOUT IT, REFUGEES CAN NOT FIND A JOB, STUDY, OR THINK ABOUT A RESETTLEMENT PROJECT, WITHOUT FACING UNJUSTIFIED ADMINISTRATIVE HINDRANCES THAT COULD JEOPARDISE THEIR LIFE PROJECTS. 

 

IN THE SPIRIT OF THE GENEVA CONVENTION, WE WILL WORK TO MATCH THE RIGHTS ACKNOWLEDGED BY ARTICLE 28 WITH AN ENFORCEABLE RIGHT TO MOBILITY.

 

THIS RIGHT TO MOBILITY NEEDS TO BE AS LARGE AS POSSIBLE AND MUST LAST, NOT ONLY DURING THE VALIDITY PERIOD OF THE TITLE BUT EVEN LONGER, AS LONG AS THE SITUATION OF THE REFUGEE JUSTIFIES IT. 

 

WE OBVIOUSLY HAVE BIG GOALS IN MIND.

 

AMONG THOSE, ARE THE UNIVERSAL ADOPTION OF THE 51 GENEVA CONVENTION AND OF THE 1967 PROTOCOL AND THE MULTIPLICATION OF THE SIGNATURES OF BILATERAL AND MULTILATERAL AGREEMENTS ON THE SHARING OF RESPONSIBILITY, FAVOURABLE TOWARDS THE REFUGEES.

 

THESE OBJECTIVES MAY SEEM OUT OF OUR REACH. NEVERTHELESS, WE MUST FIND A WAY TO REACH THEM.

 

IN ORDER TO ACHIEVE THOSE GOALS, THE FOUNDATION IS CURRENTLY WORKING ON THE CREATION OF A NETWORK OF VOLUNTARY EXPERTS “AMICI CURIAE”. 

 

THESE AMICI CURIAE, ALREADY TRAINED OR TO BE TRAINED, WOULD CONTRIBUTE IN THEIR OWN COUNTRY OR REGION, TO THE REDUCTION OF THE DIVERGENCES OF INTERPRETATION OF THE CONVENTION AND TO THE STANDARDISATION OF THE PRACTICES OF THE COUNTRIES OR GROUPS OF COUNTRIES.

 

BY REFERRING TO THE SUPREME COURTS AND THE ADMINISTRATIONS RESPONSIBLE FOR THE REFUGEE’S FREEDOM OF MOVEMENT, THEY WILL WATCH OVER THE EFFECTIVE EXECUTION OF ARTICLE 28’S PREROGATIVES. 

 

IN ADDITION, OUR AMICI CURIAE WOULD ALSO BE ACKNOWLEDGED EXPERTS AND COULD: 

 

FIRSTLY, CREATE A WIDESPREAD KNOWLEDGE OF THE EXISTING INTERNATIONAL LEGAL STANDARDS.

 

THEY WOULD BE ABLE TO ASSIST THE REFUGEES (OR NGO’S ON THEIR SIDE) TO HELP THEM RECEIVE OR RENEW OR EXTEND THEIR TRAVEL DOCUMENT. 

 

THEY WOULD MAKE SURE THERE ARE NO ABUSIVE RESTRICTIONS ON THE LENGTH OF VALIDITY OR ON THE POSSIBLE DESTINATIONS OR EVEN ON THE LENGTH OF VALIDITY OF THE RIGHT TO BE READMITTED.

 

SECONDLY, INSURE THE FULL RESPECT OF THE EQUALITY BETWEEN NATIONALS AND REFUGEES FOR THE OBTENTION OF BIOMETRIC PASSPORTS AND VISAS. 

 

THIRDLY, PROPOSE ADVISORY MISSIONS DURING NEGOTIATIONS FOR BILATERAL OR MULTILATERAL AGREEMENTS TO MINIMIZE LEGAL UNCERTAINTY. 

 

THAT IS WHY, TONIGHT, WE ARE ASKING FOR YOUR TALENTS.

 

IF YOU ARE A LAWYER, A MAGISTRATE, A RETIRED CIVIL SERVANT, AN ACADEMIC, OR A NGO LEGAL EXPERT, PLEASE CONTACT US VIA OUR WEBSITE. WE DO NEED YOUR SKILLS AND YOUR HELP.

 

WE SHOULD BE ABLE IN A MEDIUM TERM, TO PROVIDE YOU WITH AN APP ALLOWING YOU TO ACCESS IN REAL TIME THE MOST RELIABLE INFORMATION ABOUT THE STATE OF THE LAW AND THE PRACTICES CONCERNING ARTICLE 28. 

 

HERE IS, IN A FEW WORDS, THE AMBITION THAT PUSHES US FORWARD.

MAX MAMOU

President

OCTOBER 16th, 2021

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.