The 1956 Hungarian Refugee Emergency, An Early and Instructive Case of Resettlement

Marjoleine Zieck


The Soviet repression of the Hungarian uprising in 1956 caused an exodus of 200,000 refugees. Most of the refugees fled to Austria. Austria immediately called on states to help both financially and by physically sharing the refugees by means of resettlement. As a result, most of the refugees were resettled very quickly in a large number of states. Those facts stand in stark contrast to the contemporary resettlement practice that is characterized by a scarcity of resettlement places and few resettlement states. On the assumption that past practice informed and shaped contemporary resettlement law and practice, the resettlement of the Hungarian refugees – the first large-scale resettlement under the present legal regime – is revisited with a view to understanding why it was considered necessary to resettle the refugees, how so many resettlement places were secured, whether UNHCR applied a responsibility sharing device, what eligibility criteria – if any – were applied by the resettlement states, and what was actually offered to the refugees by those states.


Hungarian uprising; Austria; 1956; Hungary; refugees; resettlement; UNHCR; refugee law regime; burden-sharing

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Copyright (c) 2013 Marjoleine Zieck

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