HC Deb 21 April 1948 vol 449 cc1791-3
15. Mr. Francis Noel-Baker

asked the Secretary of State for Foreign Affairs what steps His Majesty's Government has taken, or will take, through the International Refugee Organisation to provide quick travel facilities for the 20,000 refugees in Europe, whose resettlement in other countries has been approved, but who are now held up by their inability to pay transportation costs.

Mr. Bevin

It is not altogether clear to me to which 20,000 refugees my hon. Friend is referring. Resettlement is held up less by shortage of funds than by shortage of shipping space, dollars and accommodation. His Majesty's Government, in close co-operation with the Preparatory Commission of the International Refugee Organisation, have helped, and will continue to help, by accepting displaced persons in Great Britain and by providing shipping space.

Mr. Noel-Baker

While thanking my right hon. Friend for most of that reply, may I ask him if he could comment on the situation, which I understand is the case, that there are now 20,000 persons in Europe who have been given visas and authorisations to resettle in other countries, but who cannot get out of displaced persons' camps because no transport or money is available to get them out?

Mr. Bevin

Transport is very difficult, and we have several problems—transport for emigration, transport for refugees and so on. We also have the desire of many citizens to return to their homes, of whom there is a long waiting list, due to the circumstances of the war. In the midst of all this, we are trying to do our best to get the accommodation to allow these people to be repatriated.

16. Mr. F. Noel-Baker

asked the Secretary of State for Foreign Affairs what steps His Majesty's Government has taken to increase the scale of national contributions by member States of the International Refugee Orgnisation, in view of the inadequacy of the funds now at its disposal for carrying out the repatriation or resettlement of displaced persons in Europe.

Mr. Bevin

The scale of contributions was laid down by the General Assembly of the United Nations when it approved the Constitution of the International Refugee Organisation in December, 1946, and can only be altered by the General Council of the International Refugee Organisation. When that body comes into being, His Majesty's Government will give favourable consideration to any proposals designed to ensure that the Organisation is set on a sound financial footing.

Mr. Blackburn

May I ask my right hon. Friend, in view of the obvious inadequacy of the fund now available for dealing with this problem, if it will be considered whether or not the European Recovery Programme might in some respects try to deal with refugees?

Mr. Bevin

No, I do not think they come within that category at all. I think the refugee problem is one which, if the United Nations really applied their minds to it, could be settled very quickly, and, if every nation in the world took its quota, it would be removed inside a few months.

Major Tufton Beamish

Is the right hon. Gentleman aware that in view of the lack of funds, at the present rate of progress it will be at least 10 years, before the question of European refugees is solved, and that if it is considered in isolation from the whole question of European recovery the more difficult will be the solution?

Mr. Bevin

This question must not be confused with that of the recovery of Europe. It is a separate problem, and this is a separate organisation. I am willing to continue pressing all the nations to try to take a quota by special arrangement. I think this awful business of keeping these people dangling in Europe is a scandal. I would further state that of all countries in the world, this country, has done more than all the others combined.

Mr. Speaker

In the last supplementary question the phrase "at the present rate of progress" was used. I should like to point out that at the present rate of progress here we shall be lucky if we do 32 Questions this afternoon. We have been doing one Question every two minutes.