“Who is a Refugee?”

Gerard Daniel Cohen

in In War's Wake

Published in print November 2011 | ISBN: 9780195399684
Published online January 2012 | e-ISBN: 9780199918423 | DOI:

Series: Oxford Studies in International History

“Who is a Refugee?”

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  • Modern History (1700 to 1945)


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The chapter discusses the screening operations conducted in the DP camps by Allied armies, UNRRA personnel and IRO staff members. A key challenge for the Western Allies was the identification of “true” and “false” refugees. From 1945 to 1947, antifascism was the main criteria used to separate genuine refugees from “usurpers of DP status.” Military screeners tried to identify former collaborators, veterans of the German army and Nazi sympathizers hidden among the DPs. With the intensification of the Cold War, anticommunism trumped antifascism in the granting of DP status. The IRO reintegrated into its ambit refugees previously rejected on the ground of collaboration. It also erected, for the first time in the history of political asylum, strict boundaries between political and economic refugees: the DP camps served as a laboratory for the attribution of refugee status in the postwar era.

Keywords: retribution; political asylum; International Refugee Organization; 1951 Geneva Convention; international refugee regime; asylum seekers

Chapter.  10199 words. 

Subjects: Modern History (1700 to 1945)

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