HC Deb 26 March 1889 vol 334 cc840-2

asked the Under Secretary of State for Foreign Affairs if his attention had been directed to the condition and treatment of emigrants, principally from Limerick, Clare, and Tipperary, as reported in to-day's papers, numbering 1,800 persons, on their arrival in Buenos Ayres during last month; if those emigrants, men, women and children, contrary to the representations held out by the agents of the Argentine Republic, were totally neglected on their arrival, unprovided with food, lodging, or means of obtaining work; and if Her Majesty's Government would immediately telegraph that the Consular Agent at Buenos Ayres will assume the responsibility of preserving the lives of the destitute persons referred to?

MR. J. O'CONNOR (Tipperary, S.)

Has the hon. Gentleman seen the statement in the papers that some of these emigrants have been sent back, and that 10,000 Frenchmen, mostly labouring men, are unable to find work, and are starving.


Has the hon. Member given notice of this question?


No, Sir.


Then the hon. Member had better put it down upon the paper.


A despatch on this subject was received yesterday. Her Majesty's Chargé d'Affaires at Buenos Ayres states that 1,800 persons, the great majority of whom had come from Ireland, had disembarked from a large steamship. Immigrants' barracks for 2,000 persons have been provided, but it happened that a large body of Italian immigrants had arrived a day or two previously, and, though the newcomers were not "totally neglected," the accommodation that could be improvised for them was very inadequate. Fortunately, in anticipation of the arrival of large numbers of immigrants from this country, Her Majesty's Chargé d'Affaires had assisted in forming a Committee of British residents, by whom most liberal supplies of food and other comforts were given to these poor people, and on the next day large numbers of them were lodged in the private houses of the members of the Committee, until the barracks should be available, or the immigrants should be sent up country in due course. The hon. Member will see that the spontaneous action of Her Majesty's Chargé d'Affaires and the British residents renders any special orders unnecessary, but Mr. Jenner has been already directed to report upon the condition of the immigrants who are arriving, and Her Majesty's Government are considering whether some special agency is not required in order that those from this country may be properly advised.


Is the hon. Gentleman aware that the French Government have issued a warning to French subjects, and will the Foreign Office follow that example, and pending the arrival of an official report, issue a warning to poor Irish people to abstain from emigrating until the true facts of the case have been ascertained?


No intelligence has reached the Foreign Office from the Argentine Republic of any ill-treatment of emigrants, other than the unfortunate occurrence which I have just mentioned, but the Minister representing this country has been directed specially to report upon the condition of the emigrants.


Will Her Majesty's Government follow the example of the French Foreign Office, and issue a warning.


I think the House will see that, as no allegations of ill-treatment or neglect have been received, it would be premature to warn persons against going to the Argentine Republic. I am glad to know that the British residents on the spot are fully alive to the necessity of assisting the emigrants; and in the despatch to which I have referred, it is stated that a special Irish settlement has been formed, where Irish emigrants will receive proper attention.


Cannot some provision be made, by means of which the Emigration Office would be able to give information with regard to the Argentine Republic, similar to that which is given with reference to emigration to our own Colonies? It is better to prevent the evil on this side than on the other side of the water.


The Foreign Office is in communication with the Treasury on the subject, as it will require a certain expenditure of money. I had an interview with the Chancellor of the Exchequer last night on the subject.

MR. LANE (Cork Co., E.)

May I ask whether, considering that large numbers of emigrants are about to be sent out by the agents of the Argentine Republic, Her Majesty's Government will obtain some guarantee from the representative of the Argentine Republic that proper care will be taken of the people on their arrival?


It would be more convenient that I should have notice of that question. I should then be able to give better information than it is possible to give off hand.


I sent the hon. Baronet private notice by letter last night.