Francesca Piana

Between Social Protection and the Fight against Unemployment. The Negotiations and Technical Assistance of the Bureau International du Travail in favour of Russian Refugees (1919-1925)

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This article examines the work of the International Labour Organization (ILO) on behalf of Russian refugees in the early 1920s. It studies the ILO from within as well as in relation to national and international institutions. Before the ILO signed an agreement with the League of Nations for the placement of Russian and Armenian refugees in 1925, the question saw shifts and turns. At first the ILO took a mild interest in Russian refugees: it did not see them as “humanitarian objects,µ but as persons who had rejected Bolshevism and lacked jobs and social protection. The ILO then provided technical assistance to the International Committee of the Red Cross and the League of Nations on questions including the census, statistics, resettlement plans, and passports, while failing to protect Russians, who in the meantime had been rendered stateless, from abuses. The question of Russian refugees not only allowed the ILO to experiment with the practical implications of its technical expertise, but it also turned out to be instrumental for using regulated migration as a tool to fight unemployment, thus aiming at establishing peace and social justice globally – at least on paper


  • Humanitarian aid
  • Refugees
  • Migrants
  • Protection
  • Technical assistance


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