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History of asylum and Ofpra
The first international refugee status was created following World War I (1914-18), and Ofpra has been protecting refugees and stateless persons since 1952.
We invite you to follow this journey on our historical timeline!
This chronology focuses on the history of the refugee status in France during the 20th and 21st centuries. It summarises the main texts adopted by France, the international and national institutions created for the protection of refugees, and the nationalities making the most frequent asylum requests, as well as the major events which have played a key role in these applications. It is important to note that there is not always a correlation between the rate of applications and an historic event.
Discover the 1930s
Report to the President of the Republic and decree of 11 January 1930 on the Offices for Refugees and the powers of the High-Commissionaire’s representative at the League of Nations (LN) for refugees: the decree stipulates that the Offices established in France since 1925 (the Office for Russian Refugees and the Offices for Armenian Refugees) may issue authentic documents? thanks to the designation of a French representative of the High Commissioner for Refugees of the LN who would be authorised to authenticate them.
Creation of the Nansen International Office for Refugees which continues the work begun by Fridtjof Nansen who had died earlier that year.
Convention of 28 October 1933 concerning the international status of refugees. It stipulates, for the first time, that refugees cannot be sent back to the country where they fear persecution, as well as setting out the social rights for refugees in the host country.
Creation of the Office for Georgian Refugees which replaces the Georgian legation.
Sossipatre Assathiany (1883-1971): head of diplomatic mission, first secretary of the Georgian legation, director of the Office for Georgian refugees and chief of the Georgian section at Ofpra.
Adolf Hitler comes to power. His totalitarian regime begins persecuting the Jews.
The problem of refugees from Germany is entrusted to a High Commission independent of the League of Nations.
On 10 May 1933, during a ceremony cleverly staged in front of the Berlin opera house and in 21 other German towns, tens of thousands of books are publicly thrown onto bonfires by students, teachers, and Nazi party members.
Law of 7 May 1934 approving the arrangement signed at Geneva on 12 May 1926.
The Evian Conference creates the Intergovernmental Committee for Refugees in order to find a solution for the tens of thousands of German and Austrian Jews fleeing their countries for the United States. They could not all get to the United States because of the quotas (the U.S. immigration service could only issue 27,000 visas a year for Germans and Austrians).
Convention of 10 February 1938 for refugees from Germany and Austria.
It is signed by France but not ratified until 1945.
At the end of the Spanish Civil War (1936-1939), 450,000 republican and civil combatants crossed the Pyrenean border: these are the Retirada. Militiamen and able-bodied men, disarmed at the border, are interned in camps by virtue of two decree-laws of 1938, which groups them together with “undesirable” foreigners.
Just as with the Italian antifascists and the German and Austrian Jews, the Spanish exiles find they are not recognised by the Nansen statute. The best they can hope for is to be granted territorial asylum and be authorised to stay in the country.
Spanish Civil War, 1936-1939. In Madrid, there is a constant fear of bombardments.