European Refugee Campaign


Street collection in Amsterdam, 24 October 1966From 24 to 31 October 1966 the European Appeal for Refugees was held in eighteen countries in Europe and also in Australia and New Zealand. It was organised by the European nations for the refugees in Africa, in Asia and in the Far East. The Campaign was supported by the UNHCR.


The Campaign produced $18 million. The profits of this remarkable undertaking, due largely to the initiative of Prince Bernhard of the Netherlands, who acted as Chairman of the Working Group responsible for the co-ordination of activities in the course of the Campaign, went largely to projects outside the High Commissioner's programme, but designed to reinforce its effect.


Prince Bernhard addressing the audience, 24 October 1966Thanks to the European Campaign a part of the financial deficit of UNHCR's programme for 1967 could be wiped out. The immediate results of the Campaign were slight in comparison with its political and practical implications for the future and the improvements which brought to the lives of tens of thousands of refugees, particularly Tibetans.


The Campaign helped to make public opinion in Europe more aware of the reality and the gravity of the refugee problem in Africa and Asia; it represented the first really organized effort in favour of these refugees.


For the vital personal part which he played in the Campaign, Prince Bernhard of the Netherlands was awarded the Nansen Medal.


The UN General Assembly adopted resolution 2038 (XX) on 7 December 1965 to express its keen satisfaction for the action, "as well as for the attachment shown by its promoters to the ideals and objectives of the United Nations in choosing 24 October as the launching date for the campaign". It was decided that United Nations Day 1966 would be dedicated to the cause of refugees.


Prince Bernhard donating money for the refugees, 24 October 1966In the Netherlands the Campaign started with a special circus performance in the gardens of Soestdijk Palace, the home of Queen Juliana and Prince Bernhard. The show was hosted by the most famous television presenter of the time, Mies Bouman. Prince Bernhard opened the evening with a show and the audience donated money. The first contributions were made by the Queen and Prince to Mr. Frans-Joseph van Thiel, speaker of the Second Chamber (Lower House of the Dutch Parliament).

In many cities street collections were held. (Photos from the National Archives, Netherlands)






Debate in the House of Lords on the World Refugee Problem, 20 October 1966.



Related person


Bernhard, prince of the Netherlands



Stamp catalogue


Belgium                           11 March 1967









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last revised: 24 November 2008