International AWR

The Association has its origins in the Association for the Study of the European Refugee Problem (Association Européenne pour l’etude du Problème des Réfugiés – AER), founded in 1950. The patronage was taken over by Prince Franz Josef II von und zu Liechtenstein, himself affected by the refugee problem after World War II, which is why the headquarters of the International Association were moved from Munich to Vaduz / Liechtenstein as early as 1954. Under the impression of the worldwide importance of this topic, the foundation of another research society (AWR – Association for the Study of the World Refugee Problem) was decided at the General Assembly of the AER in Istanbul in 1954. AER and AWR were merged in 1961 under the name AWR. At the 39th Congress in 1989 in Salzburg, a dialogue with scientists from Eastern European states took place for the first time, expanding refugee research to include the aspect of East-West migration. The developments in these countries also brought the issue of North-South migration into focus, targeting the refugee problems of the countries of the South.

The expansion of the spectrum of AWR research to the world refugee problem finds expression in the publications of the AWR on the refugee situation in Australia, Canada and the USSR or its successor states, especially Russia and the Baltic states.

Under the umbrella of the International AWR, national sections were formed from 1952 onward, usually organized under national association law.

National Sections

The establishment of national sections in the early 1950s was the initiative of individuals involved in refugee issues.

The Netherlands

In 1947, scholars in the Netherlands founded the “Committee for German Refugee Issues,” which was named the “Committee for European Refugee Issues” from 1948 on. The founders were concerned with conducting scientific research on the refugee problem with a view to the European dimension. In 1950, they provided the impetus for the establishment of a Dutch AER section and the founding of the international AER.

The Dutch section merged into the German section soon after its establishment.


The idea of founding an Italian Section was concretized in 1950 at the Congress of the International Sociological Institute (I.I.S.) in Rome. The Italian Section was constituted on April 15, 1951, at the 1st General Assembly of the AER in Hannover and had interdisciplinary founding members from politics, science and culture. The Italian Section provided the impetus to expand the AER’s research scope to include the world refugee problem at the 1954 Congress in Istanbul.

The Italian Section, one of the original most active national sections, provided the President of the International Society and its Secretary General for decades. In 2018, the Section was dissolved, and some of the previous members joined the German Section.


The Austrian AER Section was spun off from the Department for Refugee Issues of the Research Institute for Economics and Politics in Salzburg. It was constituted on the occasion of the 2nd General Assembly of the AER in Munich in 1952.

After the suspension of the Austrian Section in Salzburg in 2001, it was re-established in Vienna in 2002. The association was dissolved in 2014. Some members have joined the German section.


The beginnings of refugee research in the German Section date back to the office of the State Commissioner for Refugees, which was established at the Bavarian State Ministry of the Interior on November 2, 1945. The first State Commissioner and his statistical advisor were founding members of the AER. The research focus of the German section, founded in 1952, was to cope with the task of integrating about 12 million homeless, displaced persons and refugees in Germany after World War II. In addition, there were German late resettlers /Spätaussiedler) from Eastern and Southeastern Europe and Übersiedler from the former GDR. Soon the research was linked to internationally significant refugee issues. National references were in the foreground, first and foremost the right of asylum, but also the integration of foreign refugees in Germany and Europe as well as the situation of the so-called guest workers (migrant workers) in Germany.

In the 1990s, there was a reorientation towards the European and international dimension of refugee research, because the challenges of flight and expulsion can only be solved internationally. For competent refugee research, its anchoring in the highly diverse national systems is indispensable.

The Section bears the name AWR – Deutsche Sektion e.V. It is currently the Section with the largest membership. Its headquarters were moved from Bad Homburg to Würzburg in 2016.



The Liechtenstein Section was founded in 1953. That year also saw the relocation of the headquarters of the International Society from Munich to Vaduz. The initiative for the foundation can be traced back to the then Deputy Head of Government of Liechtenstein, who had been dealing with refugee issues since the end of World War II. The Princely House of Liechtenstein assumed patronage of the international society until 2004.

The Liechtenstein Section no longer exists.



Founded in Bern on July 24, 1953, the Section is not an association under Swiss law, but an unincorporated association. The members of the Swiss AER Section were mainly employees of the Swiss Central Office for Refugee Aid (Schweizerische Zentralstelle für Flüchtlingshilfe) and its affiliated aid organizations. Since 1954, the Swiss Section had the task of representing the AWR at international organizations, especially at the UNHCR (High Commissioner for Refugees). At present, the Swiss Section develops activities only within the framework of Swiss refugee aid.



The French Section was founded in 1967 at the instigation of the then President of the AWR, but has not developed any independent scientific activities and is of little importance in the structure of the International Society.



The Polish Section was founded after the opening of the Eastern Bloc countries in the mid-1990s and is based in Poznan.



The Hungarian section, based in Budapest, was also established only after the opening of the Eastern bloc countries.  Its scientific activities are carried out through the Hungarian Academy of Sciences in Budapest.



The International Society works with a network of correspondents who monitor migration issues in countries where no national section exists.

Correspondents are active for Australia and the USA, among others.

For literature on the history of the AWR, see Geis, Sandro, Rechtsstatus und Einflussmöglichkeiten von Nichtregierungsorganisationen am Beispiel der AWR, Berlin 2004, p. 69 ff. and the further literature cited there.

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