HC Deb 18 October 1950 vol 478 cc2017-9
1. Captain Ryder

asked the Secretary of State for Foreign Affairs how many aged and disabled refugees will remain unprovided for when the International Refugee Organisation closes down; and if he will urge that the total disbandment of the International Refugee Organisation be postponed until these persons are provided for.

The Secretary of State for Foreign Affairs (Mr. Ernest Bevin)

It is not possible to make a close estimate of the actual numbers involved. They will, however, be so small that it would be uneconomical and unwise to maintain international machinery indefinitely in the hope of eventual resettlement.

Captain Ryder

Can we have an assurance that these people will not be left entirely to their fate, but will be turned over to a responsible authority which will look after them?

Lady Tweedsmuir

Does the right hon. Gentleman realise that a great number of these people do not at present qualify for refugee status? Is anything being done to try to come to a decision as to the legal status of a refugee?

Mr. Bevin

I think the numbers are comparatively small. I will take the matter up with the new High Commissioner.

Sir Peter Macdonald

The International Refugee Organisation has been maintained by dollar currency. Who is to be responsible for the maintenance of these people in the future? Will it be carried on on the same principle as I.R.O.?

Mr. Bevin

The whole organisation is being wound up but residual money is available to carry on with.

Major Legge-Bourke

Are any approaches being made to the countries that are neighbours of Israel to see if the Arab refugees can be looked after?

Mr. Bevin

I should like notice of that. It is a separate question.

13. Captain Duncan

asked the Secretary of State for Foreign Affairs the approximate number of refugees from Communist-governed countries in Western Europe; what action is being taken to find work for them; and whether the International Refugee Organisation will be maintained until they have all been suitably settled.

Mr. Bevin

Approximately 238,000. All are eligible for resettlement by the International Refugee Organisation and resettlement schemes are being carried out, mainly in the United States and Australia. The I.R.O. are, I understand, confident that they can repatriate or resettle 200,000 of these. It is proposed that the resettlement activities of the I.R.O. should continue after 31st March, 1951, when the Organisation is due to be wound up.

Earl Winterton

Is it not somewhat of an anomaly that the winding-up of this organisation should even be contemplated when the original Inter-Governmental Committee for Refugees, which was formed largely on the initiative of President Roosevelt, had to deal with a problem of infinitely less magnitude than the refugee problem of today? Will the right hon. Gentleman give serious consideration to whether there should not be a continuing body responsible for all refugees?

Mr. Bevin

I do think that the people who are being left about the world are not being dealt with quite adequately by an organisation designed for a limited area. The problem is spread rather widely, and I will look into it.

Captain Duncan

What form will the organisation take which will carry on the resettlement after I.R.O. is wound up?

Mr. Bevin

I understand that the Governments will have to accept responsibility for the people who are on their territories when I.R.O. is wound up. As I say, I will look into it again.

Lady Tweedsmuir

As there are far more than 200,000 expelled people from the Eastern zone who are, in fact, refugees—I believe the total amounts to about eight million people—would the Foreign Secretary, in view of the great seriousness of the situation, particularly as it affects Germany, make representations that the High Commissioner working under U.N.O., who, I understand, is to take over the activities of I.R.O., shall have his powers greatly extended?

Mr. Bevin

I should not like to give a definite answer. I will look into the whole problem afresh. I am afraid that with regard to a lot of these refugees who are being moved about we shall have to adopt several different kinds of methods. Some of them must secure absorption in the countries where they find themselves.

Mr. Grimond

Can the right hon. Gentleman say whether additional funds will be made available to the High Commissioner from the Governments concerned, over and above those now needed for I.R.O.?

Mr. Sydney Silverman

Can my right hon. Friend say whether the definition of a refugee for this purpose is the same as the definition applied in the years to which the right hon. Member for Horsham (Earl Winterton) referred?

Mr. Bevin

I should like to have notice of that question.