Geneva — With one exception, the Soviet Union has never contributed a single kopeck to any of the many international refugee relief efforts. That exception was in 1971 when Moscow gave some modest help to the UNHCR's aid program for the 10 million Bengalis who fled to India from what was then East Pakistan.
"It's quite simple," noted one European relief official in Vienna. "As far as the Soviet Union is concerned, there is no refugee problem. And if there are groups of persecuted people across the globe, then it is the responsibility of the capitalist nations, not theirs."
The general official Soviet attitude is that there are no refugees fleeing from communist countries.
The present conflict in Southeast Asia, for instance, is pictured as the fault of the United States, not the Vietnamese, least of all the Soviets themselves. In Cuba, the "refugees" are represented as nothing more than criminals or bourgeois residue skillfully exploited for propaganda purposes by Washington. The roughly 1.5 million Afghans who have fled to Pakistan are described as either coerced by antirevolutionary brigands or supported by the United States, China, and others.
Moscow, however, does give substantial amounts of bilateral aid to certain countries in need of humanitarian relief -- although nothing on the scale of what the West has contributed over the past 25 years. In Cambodia, for example, the Soviet Union has donated an estimated $30.1 million worth of food, vehicles, cranes, and agricultural equipment. An additional $103.9 million in economic aid has been committed to the Vietnamese-supported Heng Samrin regime. But none of this has actually gone to any UNHCR-defined refugees.
Meanwhile, only a handful of the thousands of leftists who have fled right-wing dictatorships have settled in the Soviet Union. Diplomatic sources say the Soviets will not accept just anybody with communist credentials. Moscow cannot afford political liabilities.