§ 4.0 p.m.
§ BARONESS ELLIOT OF HARWOOD rose to move to resolve, That this House notes the progress of World Refugee Year, welcomes the contribution of Her Majesty's Government not only in money but also in facilitating immigration of refugees; and, while recognising British achievements in this field since the war, would welcome a generous policy of admitting further immigrants into this country from this source, together with a further contribution to the World Refugee Year Fund. The noble Baroness said: My Lords, I rise to move the Resolution which stands in my name on the Order Paper, and I should like to thank the noble Earl the Leader of the House and also the noble Viscount the Leader of the Opposition for kindly rearranging the Business of the House so that this debate could take place at four o'clock this afternoon. When we last debated this subject, which was when the right reverend Prelate the Lord Bishop of Sheffield moved a Motion, we had not yet had the full impact of the World Refugee Year Organisation and I could not give your Lordships very much in the way of a clear picture of what was likely to happen. But now I think I can give an idea of what is going on, and of the success of the World Refugee Year appeal as it stands in this country to-day. Your Lordships will doubtless recollect that the idea of a World Refugee Year came of British initiative. It was started in this country, and was accepted and passed at the United Nations by an overwhelming majority; and it has now been taken up by a great many countries throughout the world.
§ It was because for three years I was the delegate responsible for the refugees at the United Nations that I undertook to be chairman of the organisation here; and the committee which was set up, composed of a number of very distinguished people and representatives from fourteen voluntary agencies working for refugees has now been working ever since June 1. We have tried, first, to create a climate of opinion throughout the country which would arouse interest in this problem and gain as much support as possible from the public. 813 Secondly, we have tried to co-ordinate and to encourage a very diverse approach to the subject through innumerable organisations of all kinds; through all the political Parties, through the trade union movement, through the Civil Service and through a vast variety of societies and organisations throughout the whole country—and a really remarkable response has come from everywhere. Thirdly, we have suggested—and I shall suggest very humbly again—that it might be possible for Her Majesty's Government, in view of the great generosity shown by the public, to consider a slight increase in the contributions which they have been making to World Refugee Year. Fourthly, we have put forward schemes to the Government for bringing in some of the handicapped refugees, who are the hard core, as it has been called, of the refugee problem to-day.
§ To help with the Year, we adopted for our purposes four objects. The first is to help to close the camps in Europe and to resettle the refugees out of those camps. There are approximately 22,000 refugees still in camps throughout Europe. The second is to help to resettle refugees who are not in camps but who are living in very sub-standard accommodation and are not permanently settled in any real job of life. There remain approximately 110,000 people in that category. Then we passed our attention to the Middle East, where, as your Lordships know, there is a really terrible problem of Arab refugees. While we were not prepared, and cannot in the circumstances, enter into any of the political aspects of that problem, we felt that we could do something to help those million Arab refugees. Therefore that is one of the objects of our appeal.
§ Then we turned to the Far East, to Hong Kong, where we understand there are now a million, and possibly more, Chinese refugees from the Communist régime in the Republic of China who are now living in desperate conditions, judging by the photographs that one has seen and the accounts that one gets. Then, further, we resolved to provide some money for what remains only a very small problem, and that is the transportation of White Russian refugees from Hong Kong to places where they can be received. They already have passports 814 and visas but simply lack the money to get there. In addition, some of our cooperating agencies have given considerable sums of money to Algerian refugees, to refugees from Tibet, and to other categories—because the co-operating organisations have their own plans as well as co-operating with the objects which our committee set forward.
§ Those are, as it were, the bare bones of the structure. Now perhaps I can tell your Lordships something of how the work is going throughout the world. First of all, in the international field there are now seventy nations and territories taking part in World Refugee Year. There are thirty-seven with active committees, including all the Commonwealth countries except one; nine where committees are being formed; nineteen where the High Commissioner has high hopes that they will get busy and will actively take part in the work; and five territories of the British Commonwealth British Honduras, Gambia, Hong Kong, St. Lucia in the West Indies and Uganda—have their own World Refugee Year committees. I am sure your Lordships all appreciate how difficult it is to get all the nations of the world to cooperate together, but this, I think, is a remarkable beginning for this great work.
§ Here in the United Kingdom our most optimistic hopes of how this appeal would go have been exceeded. Never have I known any appeal that has gone so well or to which the response has been greater. In the creation of this climate of opinion of which I spoke, we have had tremendous help from the B.B.C., from the Independent Television Authority and from the whole of the Press. I do not know that we have ever made an appeal to any of those organisations to which they have not responded. We have had two great appeals: one on television by Lord Montgomery of Alamein, which brought us in £55,000, and the other only the other day by Lord Churchill, the response to which has now reached practically £48,000. Those are remarkable results of two broadcasts. An appeal in the City of London has brought us a quarter of a million pounds.
§ There are now between 700 and 800 committees working throughout the country, all over England, in Wales, in Scotland and in Northern Ireland; and 815 there are other groups working which we hear of only when they send us money. I have taken part, as I am sure many of your Lordships have, in many appeals, but I have never known one in which there has been such a wonderful response, whether from the marvellous cheque of £100,000 which Sir Henry Price sent to us, as some of your Lordships may have seen in the Press a little while ago—and I may say that we had not even written to Sir Henry Price to ask for money—or from tiny little groups all over the country, such as one from a village in Scotland I know well where the schoolchildren are putting aside 1d. a day for the refugee fund until the end of the year. Then there has been the contribution from refugees in this country, who have been working hard to raise money—as it were, a"Thank you" for what they have received here as refugees. So I think we can say that the whole British public is behind us in this appeal and that they are saying in a perfectly practical manner,"We are determined to try to finish this if we possibly can."
§ Now we set a target of £2 million, but I can tell your Lordships that we are going to get far more money than that—I should not like to say how much, because I do not know, but I do know that it will be very much more than the target we set ourselves. But there is one question which is asked at every meeting. I have been addressing many meetings throughout the country, and it is a question which I am bound to put in this debate because it would be unfair if I did not. The public are saying:"If we are all giving so much and doing all we can, we hope that Her Majesty's Government will give a little more." They have given us £200,000, and very nice it is to have £200,000; but I should like, with all humility, to suggest to the noble Marquess who is to reply that if he could have a little word in the ear of the Chancellor of the Exchequer before those great surpluses get mopped up at the end of the financial year, he might be able to produce another £300,000. That is the modest request we should like to make, so that the Government contribution might rise to half a million pounds. It will still be very much less than the millions which are going to be contributed by 816 the British public. The recent conference in Geneva of all the organisations co-operating in the World Refugee Year learned that already four countries were contributing more per head of their population than we are, among them Norway, Holland, Sweden and New Zealand, who have twice raised their target. I hope that we may get a little further help from the Government, while I fully appreciate that it is the great, spontaneous effort of the British people which is going to have its effect on the world.
§ Having got so much money, we are determined not to sit on it but to do something with it straight away, because this is not a cause that can wait. We have started allocating the money, and perhaps it may interest your Lordships to know how that money has been allocated. So often people say to us,"You are raising all this money: what are you going to do with it?" We have done quite a lot already, and I hope your Lordships will approve of what we have done. First of all, we have allocated £150,000 to the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees in Europe. Of this, £53,571 is going to a special housing project in Austria, for housing refugees with large families. Many families remain in camp there because it is not easy to move large families to other countries where it is difficult to find accommodation for them. The High Commissioner has a plan for either building new houses or taking over old ones and re-equipping them, provided that they are large enough to house these families.
§ A similar sum is going to Germany, to take the old and infirm from the camps and settle them either in old people's homes or with communities who will care for them. These are individual and tragic cases, who are not easily assimilated into ordinary communities and have to be specially handled. The small sum of £5,000 will be used for medical advice and to make a survey to give special attention to people who have been many years in camp and whom it is difficult to take straight out and put into the world. We have two schemes to provide, outside the camps, for the rehabilitation and permanent settlement of old people. The sum of £17,857 has gone to refugees in Italy, to permanently settle 817 them outside camp. So far that is what we have done in Europe.
§ We have sent £37,500 to the United Nation Relief and Works Agency in the Middle East. This is the first contribution by any country towards the four million dollar scheme for vocational training and scholarships for young refugees that was adopted by the United Nations. Dr. Davis, the United Nations High Commissioner in the Middle East, was over here the other day, and when saw him he stressed strongly that one of the problems of the Arabs is that far too many of them are unskilled. If only young people could be trained, they would be able to get jobs at once in skilled and semi-skilled professions outside the camps.
§ We have sent £80,000 to the Governor of Hong Kong, to build a community centre for the education and training of Chinese refugees. As your Lordships know, this is a vast problem and this is only a small contribution, but it is the beginning of something which the Governor badly wanted. We have also allocated £50,000 for the transport of White Russian refugees from Hong Kong to their new homes overseas. So already £317,000 has gone out from our office, and we will do all we can to see that more schemes are put forward and that we give the money out as quickly as we can, because it is badly wanted.
§ Apart from what the central fund has done, the agencies, who have been working tremendously hard, have spent much of their money on sending out supplies of equipment and furnishings, as well as clothing in enormous quantities. Organisations like the Women's Voluntary Service and the Oxford Famine Relief Committee have collected a vast amount of clothing, which has all gone out to the Middle East and other places where it is badly wanted. So we have all done as much as we can practically to implement the World Refugee Year idea.
§ We have asked that we might be allowed to bring into this country some of the handicapped refugees. As Dr. Lindt, the High Commissioner, says, this is one of the great stumbling blocks to clearing the camps and resettling the refugees. These handicapped refugees are brought before tribunals and are turned down because of illness or suspected tuberculosis or something of that kind, and they and their families 818 have to remain in camp. We have received permission from Her Majesty's Government to bring in 210 handicapped refugees and their families. The mission that went out to select these refugees left only in November last year, but already 110 of the refugees are over here. I would pay tribute to the Home Office, to the sponsors and to the British Committee for Aid to Refugees, the body responsible for this operation, for the speed with which they have carried out this work. From those who have done this kind of work before, I understand that it has taken anything from a year to eighteen months to get one person over here; but this work has been done between November and January, and the other 80 refugees will be arriving here any day. They are due some time during the middle of February.
§ There is still a great need for us to be more generous about handicapped refugees. The most recent figures I have show that the number of handicapped refugees in camps is 10,000, comprising families of which one member is handicapped, and the number outside camps is 17,850. Those are large figures. Of course, only a small proportion of handicapped refugees would want to come here, because some of them want to be settled in the area in which they have been working or have been educated, and many of them want to go to the New World—to the United States, South America, Canada, Australia or New Zealand—for obvious reasons: to get away from the European problems. But we could still take more here, and I would ask for the sympathy of the Home Office and of Her Majesty's Government to enable us to bring over more people. I would ask also that the Government might consider altering slightly some of the terms under which people are brought here, and be a little more generous, possibly, on the question of statutory help for families should they by any chance fall again into difficulty after some years or not be in full employment. I think we could be a little more generous in that direction.
§ May I give your Lordships an idea of how little risk there is in taking over these people? Out of the 67 who have arrived, all but three are already in employment. It is a rule that every family must have one wage-earner as well as a sick person, for whose cure we are going 819 to give facilities. In the particular group that has just arrived, out of 67 only 3 are not now in work. So I do not think the risk is very great. I would suggest that for the voluntary agencies to have to supply all the money and afford the sponsorship, as it were, is a big burden, because while it may not always fall on them, they may lock up a lot of money which will not be needed for any particular family. It will be possible, I think, for the Government, after, say, three years, to take some responsibility, and after seven years these people might be considered to be citizens in the community here.
§ The next selection committee that is going out is going definitely to look for refugees out of camp; refugees who are, in particular, ex-concentration camp victims struggling to keep their head above water in Germany, who are most unhappy there and, particularly in view of recent events, anxious to get away to countries where they have not memories of suffering. If we could be a little wider in our classification we might be able to help in that way. I can give one or two examples of the kind of people we have taken and who are very grateful for our hospitality. There is a White Russian from China, 70 years of age. She came over through the British Council for Aid to Refugees, and is in a tiny single room in a house in Hampshire. When she arrived she asked how many people she had to share the room with, and when she was told nobody, she burst into tears, because she had never in her life lived alone, even in a small room, but had had to share with five others.
§ There is a family of four who had been before twelve immigration missions and had been turned down every time because the wife of the family had tuberculosis. When the husband was told that they could come, he broke down and said:"It is too good. We never thought we should ever be able to get away." Then there is another family who have always been in a camp room with the wife's father and mother. The wife had tuberculosis. They have been brought over; the wife is being cured in a sanatorium and they are already much better. The husband has a house and is employed, and the wife is happy and much better because she 820 realises that there is a future. I could multiply those cases, and many of your Lordships may know of others. This is a great humanitarian effort, and I think we should continue to help with it, because the numbers are not astronomical. It is a case of trying to do what we can for them under these conditions.
§ Then there is another great organisation which I believe we could help a little. I refer to the organisation which carries out all the transportation, the International Committee for European Migration. We are not members of that organisation, but when the Hungarian influx came here we assisted with contributions. I understand now that if they could get some help from all the countries of the world it would be of great assistance to them, because, as I say, they are the people who are responsible for the transportation of the refugees out of their first country into their second country of asylum.
§ This is what has been, and is, going on here in this country and is being followed throughout the world. I have found everywhere I have been—and I have been to many places—a tremendous interest and a desire to help. There is one aspect which I cannot resist mentioning, because I have been so struck by it. Recently some of your Lordships may have seen a book called They Carne as Strangers. It is about refugees, and it has historical facts and the history of the refugee movement throughout the world, and more particularly in this country, since the days of the Huguenots and the Flemings up to the present day. I read in that book with great interest (it is a quotation from Professor Norman Bentwick, who I am sure is entirely accurate) that out of the terrible and appalling influx that came into this country as a result of the Hitler persecutions—we took 100,000 of the Jewish community and others—600 were scholars. They were found posts in this country; and 64 went to the Commonwealth. Out of the refugee scholars who came to this country—and this was before the war—32 became Fellows of the Royal Society and 17 Fellows of the British Academy. I think that tells for itself how we have gained, not only then, but in many centuries, from being generous towards refugees.821
§ THE MARQUESS OF LANSDOWNE
My Lords, for the sake of accuracy, may I say that the figure is 80,000.
§ BARONESS ELLIOT OF HARWOOD
In the book it was given as 100,000. However, my figure about scholars covers the point I want to make, and that comes from Professor Norman Bentwick who, I think, is accurate. We hope that out of the World Refugee Year, out of the contributions from all over the world, some permanent solution will be found, because it is permanent solutions that we are trying to find. We know that we can find permanent solutions in Europe, given that there is no further exodus or outbreak of persecution; and if we can get enough money, and if the High Commissioner can count on enough good will from other countries, we can finish the camps and go a long way towards resettling refugees outside camps.
In Hong Kong the solution obviously is not yet: we do not know what the permanent solution will be. In the Middle East it is the same. We can help, but we cannot solve. If, however, we can do it in Europe, and find some permanent solutions there, that, at any rate, will be a great result of the Year. The British public have shown a wonderful response to our appeal, indicating that they approve and wish us to carry on still further. I know that from the meetings I have attended. I should like to appeal to the Minister who is to reply on behalf of the Government to take as generous a view from the offices of Whitehall as the man in the street does all over the country. I beg to move.
Moved to resolve, That this House notes the progress of World Refugee Year, welcomes the contribution of Her Majesty's Government not only in money but also in facilitating immigration of refugees; and, while recognising British achievements in this field since the war, would welcome a generous policy of admitting further immigrants into this country from this source, together with a further contribution to the World Refugee Year Fund.—(Baroness Elliot of Harwood.)
§ 4.28 p.m.
§ LORD SHACKLETON
My Lords, once again we are indebted to the noble Baroness, Lady Elliot of Harwood, for 822 a clear account of the work, particularly of the voluntary organisations, in facing this appalling problem. While, in the remarks I propose to make I shall take up some of her points, and more especially those that are directed towards the Government, with perhaps a little less delicacy than she has shown, I think it is right that we should begin by congratulating all those people who have done such devoted service in the past year: and no one has done more than the noble Baroness herself. Her energy, drive and determination as Chairman of the British National Committee has unquestionably contributed most decisively to the success about which she has told us. We ought at the same time to remember all those others. We have one other at least in this House, the noble Baroness, Lady Swanborough, whose work in the voluntary field is so well-known; and there are others, like Dame May Curwen, Mr. Casson, Mr. Shaw and that great man, Dr. Lindt. And I should also like to mention a Member of another place who has achieved something that is not given to many of us so early in his life in helping to initiate this great drive—namely, Mr. Chataway.
The degree of success in the voluntary field has been most striking, yet we still find ourselves confronted with a tragedy which in its widest extent is far from solution. There are, of course, encouraging aspects, especially the degree of international co-operation, and particularly I would refer to the work of the Churches. In this field the Churches have played a wonderful part, and I am told there has been the most admirable spirit of co-operation between all denominations.
It has been estimated—and figures in this matter are apt to be rather staggering—that since the war something like 40 million people, one in 70 of the people born into this world, have become refugees. Most of these refugees, of course, have never come into the official reckoning of the refugee organizations, the international bodies, because they have become immediately the responsibility of the country to which they have gone. As an instance, I would point to the Volksdeutsche, the ethnic Germans in Africa. I should like to echo the plea the noble Baroness made for further help for some of those Germans who have not yet found a satisfactory home. There are, 823 of course, many other refugees, like the refugees of the troubles on the Indian border at the time of independence, with whom we ourselves have never really been concerned at all.
I should like, first of all, to direct my remarks to the situation in Europe which for the first time presents an encouraging appearance. As the noble Baroness said, it is encouraging to think that perhaps within the course of the next year the refugee camps which have been such a permanent feature will be closed. Already, as a result of the efforts during this year, the numbers are going down week by week, just as the numbers of the unsettled refugees outside the camps are going down. I am told that there are only about 22,000 in camps, and something over 100,000 outside. This is a subject for such hope that it led the Secretary General of the United Nations, when he spoke to the Committee concerned with this matter on November 4, to say that for the first time he was able to speak with hope. Real progress is being made, and we can at least be satisfied, if we forget the suffering from the loss of home, friends and family, the loss of everything which has afflicted so many of these pathetic people for so long, that there is now a chance that they will have a prospect of a reasonable life.
The British contribution in this matter has undoubtedly been very great, and I think perhaps the greatest part has been the British initiative. It was the British drive that produced the World Refugee Year. It is the British example and organisation that have strengthened the hand of the High Commissioner, Dr. Lindt, in urging other countries; and the fact that we are so well on the way to achieving the target of £2 million is a subject for congratulation. Of course, when we come to the Government's contribution we have to think again, and later I shall have some remarks to make which I hope the noble Marquess who is to reply will not whisper but will shout in the ear of the Chancellor of the Exchequer—and I hope that he will shout it with a clear opinion that the people of this country and the Members of this House expect the Government to do more than they have done. I hope to back up what I have to say by some examples of the comparative effort that they are making.
824 When we look outside Europe the situation is nearly as tragic as it has ever been. We are all aware of this appalling problem of the Arab refugee. We know that it is a consequence of political actions, and we know that it is political actions which, in the long run, will help to provide the solution. I am glad that the United Nations have decided to extend the mandate of U.N.R.W.A., to which, incidentally, I think it is fair to point out the British Government make a contribution of somewhere around £2 million a year. I hope that my figures are correct. It is satisfactory that that work is going on. It is satisfactory also that at least an attempt is being made. That is what is so important; and that, indeed, is the object of the World Refugee Year—to try to find a permanent solution for some of these unfortunate people. Among some of these unfortunate people are a quarter of a million children who are still living under appalling conditions.
I should like your Lordships to consider for one moment a particular refugee problem which has not received, I think, the attention it should have done, and that is the Algerian refugee problem. It is the newest of them. In this matter of refugees we are not concerned with political considerations. It is not a question of taking sides against this country or that country. But the fact remains that now there are a quarter of a million Algerian refugees in Tunis and Morocco, very many of them living under the most appalling conditions. Although your Lordships will have heard many accounts of hardship and tragedy, I feel bound to quote a report that two Quakers made this last October on a visit to Tunisia. They said:We made a long drive up into the mountains to the frontier. When we got there we could hear cannon booming in Algeria, across the border. Practically all the children we saw showed signs of extreme malnutrition—sores, hair falling out, thin, thin, thin. At Le Kef the children were being carried about too weak to walk—with tiny arms all bone, and hardly able to hold up their heads—at five or six years of age. Sores, scaling skin, swollen bellies, hair falling out, all these you could see. It is impossible to imagine people being alive and having worse conditions. Later, we went inside the mud and branches hut of a family of six. It was a circular place ten feet in diameter with a dirt floor …They then describe how the family spread out one of their two blankets on the floor.
825 This new horror (I only hope it is the last of the new horrors that we have in the world) calls for some pretty desperate action, and here once again the voluntary bodies are making their contribution. They are at work trying at this stage to keep these people alive. But there will be the further need for settlement. I hope, notwithstanding the wisdom of the national Committee in selecting four main objectives, the tragedy of these Algerians will be very much in the forefront of the organisers of the World Refugee Year, and that, if possible, something will come in addition to the contributions from voluntary sources. I should also like the Government, whose present contribution, I believe, is a small quantity of palm oil, to bear in mind this fact. We may be faced with new refugee problems, possibly from the Continent of Africa, unless a greater degree of statesmanship is shown in solving—I am not trying to make any Party political point—the problems of that vast territory.
I should like now to look towards the Far East. Here again we have these tragic problems in Korea and Indochina. One just cannot dismiss them with a wave of the hand, though they have not quite so specifically concerned us in the objectives that we have in this country. There is one particular area, however, for which we are responsible, and that is the colony of Hong Kong, where something like one million refugees have crowded in from the mainland and from China and are seeking to make their homes in a territory whose total population, including refugees, is under three million. This brings me very much to the question of Government help. There have already been grants made from the World Refugee Committee in this country to Hong Kong, and I believe that included in those grants is a small contribution from the Government. I am told, however—and I can scarcely credit this—that this country has made no contribution whatsoever, apart from help from certain of the Colonial funds, to Hong Kong. It has been left entirely to voluntary action. It has been left to the people in that admittedly wealthy Colony, but something like one-third of the budget of the Hong Kong Government goes on refugees.
826 It is clear that most people are under the impression that this country makes contributions to its overseas territories which are particularly under its responsibility, and that we help as necessary. It seems to me quite extraordinary that there has been no contribution from the British Government to Hong Kong. It is not as if their attention had not been drawn to it. We are very certain that the Governors of Hong Kong will have spoken privately in no uncertain terms to the Government—indeed, Sir Alexander Grantham has said some words in public on this subject. I should like to know, and I am sure many noble Lords would like to know, the attitude of the Government and why we have made so little contribution towards that particular problem. This is British territory. The refugees come there, and we should accept our responsibility.
My Lords, there is another aspect of this question and that is the admission of refugees. I would draw your Lordships' attention to the fact that the number of refugees who have been admitted to that small territory is rather more than twice—between two or three times—the number we have admitted into this country. This is a responsibility which is laid upon us all. We know that the British Government have agreed to give £200,000 in this World Refugee Year as a special contribution, in addition to the contributions they make to the High Commission and to U.N.R.W.A. That has been proudly announced. Indeed, the British representative in the Committee of the United Nations announced that the Government had contributed £200,000. I should like to ask the Government how much, in fact, they have already contributed, because there is a tremendous, urgency in this matter. I am told that so far only £50,000 of the promised British contribution of £200,000 has been granted. When we think of that munificent gift of £100,000 from Sir Henry Price, to which the noble Baroness, Lady Elliot of Harwood, referred, I would hope that the British Government, representing all the taxpayers, might art least do a bit better than double the offer and the contribution of a single man.
That has been the tragedy of the refugees right from the beginning. Governments have continuously washed their hands; all Governments, in all countries, have continuously washed their hands. 827 There have been pious phrases but very little action; and time and again it has been left to the conscience and initiative of the voluntary agencies and particularly the Churches, who have brought this issue before the world. Governments generally have done very little. When we look back over the past tragedies it is apparent that Governments, who after all bear pretty considerable responsibility for bringing about the situation in which refugees have had this tremendous suffering, have dodged the issue.
I happen to be a keen admirer of one of the greatest men who ever lived, Fridj of Nansen. When Nansen struggled between the wars to get help, whether for the Russian famine or for refugees, he continually met with obstruction from Governments and had to appeal to voluntary helpers. And when again, later, he, with Herbert Hoover, Philip Noel-Baker and Quisling—a rather unlikely combination; in fact a very unsual combination—were working in the Russian famine it was the"Save The Children" International Union and the Quakers to whom they appealed, because the Governments of that day washed their hands of it. Nansen was so indignant over this, and particularly over the Armenians, that he felt compelled to resign his post as High Commissioner.
To-day, my Lords, Governments are doing a bit better, but they are still not doing enough, and I should like to see the British Government match the voluntary effort of the British people by now increasing their contribution and paying up as soon as they can. Furthermore, if they do they will be setting an example to the rest of the world; and that is what is needed. It is necessary for us all to increase our effort. We set our standards too often by those of other people. At the present moment, from the figures the noble Baroness has given us, we are not quite in the lead—Norway, Holland and other countries are doing better than we are. I should like to see this country get into the lead and make a really big contribution, of a kind that will strike the imagination of the world. And whether it is half a million pounds or one million Hounds, or even a bigger figure, I can assure the Government—and I am sure all noble Lords will agree—that it would receive the support of all Parties and all people 828 in this country. I hope, therefore, that the noble Marquess, when he comes to reply, will give us some indication that he will convey the strength of the feeling in regard to this matter.
I should like just briefly to refer to some of the other individual efforts. It was interesting to learn that one village in Yorkshire, Yattenden, is making a contribution that works out at about ten shillings per head of the population; and I am told that it may amount very soon to £1 per head. I hope that those figures will be published. Perhaps we could have the equivalent of a national chart and let people compete. I am not quite sure in which area Sir Henry Price's contribution will come. Let this be part of the campaign which is being so splendidly organised by the noble Lady's Committee.
I also hope that the Government will be more liberal in regard to the admission of handicapped refugees. It is the experience of everybody who has studied this subject, I think, that over the years refugees have always, or practically always, been an asset to the country to which they have come. I think this will frequently include refugees who have been handicapped. But even if they are not handicapped let us at least face up to the fact that we shall get many benefits from the well ones; and we ought to be capable of some act of charity to those who are not able to live or to earn their living. It is not a question of any very great generosity. After all, the Government are not proposing to pay for them. They are refusing any prospect of their having National Assistance, for instance, and the voluntary bodies, I understand, are carrying the full responsibility for the financial provision of these people. So I hope that, here again, for these small numbers (we know that we cannot bring big numbers; that is not what is needed) the Government will do more still. This is a continual fight. We persuade the Government to bring 100 in, and they say"All right". Then we"up" it a bit and ask for 200. Could we not just take the lid off a bit and make it clear that we are prepared to make a really substantial contribution in the matter of some of these handicapped refugees?
Furthermore, could we not have a rather more liberal approach on the 829 application of some of the regulations? I think experience is beginning to show that some of these health regulations are really completely pettifogging—for example, the unwillingness to admit people who have had tuberculosis. We have large numbers of people in this country who have had tuberculosis, who have been cured and are now living useful lives. I think there is a certain almost mental block in regard to this—certain standard objections, a recognised outlook—and that one only mentions them for people to say,"You cannot do that". But we are putting unnecessary obstacles in the way, and in the process we and other countries have created great unhappiness. So I hope the Government will be liberal in regard to this matter also.
Next I should like to ask them to do one or two other things. I should like to ask them to support various proposals that have come from the Council of Europe. There were proposals that a certain number (I think it was 8,000) of refugee seamen should be given travel papers so that they would be able to ply their trade and would not be locked up on the ship, unable, when they see the harbour lights, to go ashore. I am told that six of the countries who participated in the Agreement have ratified it, but that two countries, Germany and Belgium, have yet to do so. I hope that the noble Marquess will bear this in mind and perhaps make representations, either through diplomatic channels or in any other way, to get a speedy ratification of that Agreement.
Then there is another proposal from the Council of Europe, which again I would ask the noble Marquess to bear in mind. We know that he has a great interest in the Council of Europe: he himself was active in it at one time, I believe. The new proposal (they have put up several other proposals which the Governments who participated turned down, for one reason or another, as being unacceptable) is that the surplus in this year's Budget amounting to 50 million francs—which, if my arithmetic is right, is about £40,000—should be allocated to a special fund for World Refugee Year. This proposal will be considered by the representatives of f think it is called) the Council of Ministers, in February, and I would urge 830 that the British delegate should support that proposal. If he cannot persuade colleagues right away, let him urge that they should go back for further instructions. This is something which could be done positively, something which would be a worthy activity for the Council of Europe, and which again would bring worthwhile help to refugees. When we look at the contributions of different countries we find that some are definitely lagging. I would ask the British Government to take, if they can, a further initiative in pressing for quick action, for getting out some sort of real call to the Governments and the nations of the world to do something about We know that if only it is put across as it has been put across in this country, there is any amount of good will there is any amount of enthusiasm and initiative that can be called into this particular cause.
I would ask the Government to take a lead in this; to press, whether at the United Nations or anywhere else, wherever they can, for further support; and, above all, to set an example by increasing their own contributions. Surely there must be some message that we can send, some action that the Government can take, further to bring home, not only within this country but in other countries, the appalling nature of this problem. We have all heard—the noble Baroness mentioned some examples—pathetic stories of so many people whose lives have been absolutely ruined. There are still these tragic White Russians—it may be 7,000 only—who are still waiting for a permanent home. I am glad that some part of the British Government contribution is allocated—and particularly I am glad that the World Refugee Year Committee in this country are making a direct contribution in this respect—to the solution of that problem.
In our debate of last year the right reverend Prelate the Lord Bishop of Sheffield referred most movingly in his opening remarks to this problem, by quoting some words from Dr. Elfan Rees., who has played such a notable part in this field. He referred to this as being the"age of the homeless man." We can all find quotations, but I should like to end by quoting something that Professor Berry, of Ohio State University, has said: 831I shall hazard the guess that future generations will find our proper symbol, not in the soldier or the scientist, not in Ford or Gandhi. The symbol of the twentieth century, I suspect, will prove to be the refugee. Can you find a better symbol for the instability of our times, for the anxieties and suspicions, for the racial prejudice and rampant nationalism, for the power struggle, or the devastation of total war, even for that hope which springs eternal.… The refugee is indeed the perfect embodiment of all these.My Lords, perhaps the"hope that springs eternal" is still justified. It is for all of us—and that includes the Government—to play their part in justifying it.
§ 4.54 p.m.
§ LORD AMULREE
My Lords, I am one of those who certainly share the great pleasure and the delighted surprise which the noble Baroness experienced when she found what a large sum was coming into the World Refugee Fund from purely voluntary sources. It has been a great encouragement to all of us to know what that sum is, and it shows up the rather paltry sum that Her Majesty's Government are giving specially to that Fund. Therefore, I should like to add my support—and I know that my noble friend Lord Rea, who is very sorry that he cannot be here now, would agree with what I am going to say—to the suggestion that Her Majesty's Government should increase their contribution, certainly to half a million pounds, which, after all, would be, as the noble Baroness said, merely one quarter of the target aimed at from voluntary subscriptions.
Another point which has been referred to is the question of the admission of these unfortunate people to this country. The policy of the Home Office appears to be a trifle kinder than it was once upon a time from the point of view of immigration. One was told frequently in the past that we were such a tiny island, so overcrowded, that we had to be most careful whom we took in. Now things are becoming easier. I was extremely pleased to know that a certain number of handicapped refugees are to be allowed to come in. But what a tiny number it is! From the Report of the Commissioner of Refugees, I see that 210 people are to be allowed here. I am not clear whether that number refers to people or to families—perhaps the noble 832 Marquess can tell me that when he replies. It comprises 10 aged people, 50 who are difficult to settle and 150 who it was thought were rehabitable. Whilst there are 210 people or families involved, that is not a great number.
I support what the noble Lord, Lord Shackleton, has said about some of the frights and fears that people still have. It is a terrible thing if one member of a family who is acceptable here is found to have suffered, or to be suffering, from tuberculosis. Until quite recently that was an absolute bar to their being admitted. We all know that in this country tuberculosis, particularly of the chest and lungs, is, to a large extent, a curable disease. People do not die with it. The mortality rate is falling. Why we have to be so frightened of admitting people with this disease when there are facilities for treatment and good prospects of cure, I simply do not understand. I trust that there is going to be a change of mind very soon in that connection.
Another thing which I think is most improper is the fact that the Government at no time will accept financial responsibility for these unfortunate people if they fall upon evil days. One can quite well see that for the first few years they are here they should be it ported by voluntary bodies, but it is expected that most of them will obtain jobs and settle down to become perfectly good, reputable and productive citizens of this country. Why voluntary bodies who have money should be forced to keep sums aside in case these people fall on evil days in ten, twenty, thirty or forty years' time I do not understand; and I trust that Her Majesty's Government will see their way to making these people eligible, when they come here as refugees, for the ordinary kind of benefits that a person living in this country would expect to obtain. The sum involved could not be large but it is a very big sum for the voluntary organisations to have to put aside and tie up.
Again, I saw with a certain amount of surprise in a report from the Special Representative of the Secretary-General of the United Nations for the World Refugee Year, on January 12—I do not know if the figures are correct—that the total number of visas to be granted, not by this country but by the whole of the 833 countries participating in the World Refugee Year, is only 4,300, of which I believe nearly 2,000 are to be for handicapped persons. If only 4,000 visas are to be granted to people living in these refugee camps it seems to me to make almost a mockery of the idea that people are to be admitted to other countries, and will at the same time bring an enormous burden on the countries where the camps are; for although it is possible to build with the money collected in the World Refugee Year and to provide villages, settlements and towns for these people, it means that they will be permanently settled in that country, whether they want to move or not. When I saw that figure of 4,300 I thought it must be wrong, but I fear it was not.
Whether we like it or not, this is a responsibility of the whole civilised world. Taking rather a long-term and broad point of view, it is the civilised world—or the evil deeds of members of the civilised world—which has caused the refugee problem; and therefore we should take up the burdens which have been placed on our not unwilling shoulders and carry them to the end, trying to cope with this problem. It is extraordinary how voluntary bodies are working so hard. And here I must declare an interest, for I am involved in the County of London Branch of the British Red Cross Society. Even that Society is running a big new rehabilitation scheme in Hong Kong. We have set aside a sum of money—£10,000—to establish there a physiotherapy department which will be largely for handicapped children, most of whom will be refugees from across the border, from China. So with such a lot of work being done on the voluntary side, it makes me sad that Her Majesty's Government cannot do a little more.
The Red Cross has given a great deal of assistance to the tragic refugees in the Middle East who have been rather left, by the countries they have entered, to take care of themselves. Certainly I am very glad that the World Refugee Year is making a big contribution towards trying to resettle them and train them in some skilled or semi-skilled work, but it is, nevertheless, a recurring problem. The noble Lord, Lord Shackleton, referred to refugees from 834 Algeria, who, I suppose, have been refugees for, at a maximum, only four or five years; but about a quarter of a million have gone into Tunisia on the one side or to Morocco on the other. Both these countries are extremely poor. They cannot cope with such a great influx of people, and the conditions in which those refugees are living are shocking. The noble Lord, Lord Shackleton, quoted a very moving account of their living conditions. I do not want to follow him far along that line except to say that most of these refugees are old people or women and children. There are very few men. They are living in most appalling conditions and their state of nutrition is absolutely shocking. Even though a certain amount of food has come in from American surplus stores and other sources, they are only getting now, at a maximum, about half of what one would consider would be the proper food values for normal people. Can we be surprised if, as a result, all kinds of diseases occur which, again, cause more and more problems? I am wondering whether it would not be possible for Her Majesty's Government once more to make some kind of contribution to this problem—a special contribution. I have seen two different figures quoted of what we have done. One was £13,000 and the other was £30,000 for palm oil sent for food.
§ LORD AMULREE
I believe I am right in saying that that is the supply needed for a period of about one month. It is a tiny gesture of goodwill but it does not get things much forrarder and puts a large burden of work on the Red Cross and the Red Crescent Societies. The only persons helping in a big way are the French—which is very proper. They have given 125 million francs and are to give a further similar sum in the near future. Whether these are heavy francs or the old francs I do not know. It would certainly make a great deal of difference if it were to be in heavy francs. There is a long list of speakers before the House but I trust that what has been said by the noble Baroness, the noble Lord, Lord Shackleton, and myself and will be said by other noble Lords will encourage Her Majesty's Government to take a rather more generous attitude on a money contribution and in regard to 835 the people whom they allow to come into this country.
§ 5.7 p.m.
THE LORD BISHOP OF SHEFFIELD
My Lords, I should like to support and underline what has been said in favour of the Motion by previous speakers, without necessarily repeating it; but, first, as one who has been associated for fourteen years and more with one of the organisations responsible for conducting work among refugees in the world I should like to express very warm thanks to those who thought up the World Refugee Year and also to the noble Lady and her colleagues who are carrying it through with such graceful and forceful persuasion to assure its success. The drive and enthusiasm which they have put into this Year has been a most spectacular encouragement to this work and is bringing valuable financial aid of a kind which ought to solve some of the problems and untie some of the knots which have not so far been solved or untied.
It is a very interesting fact that this appeal for refugees brings so wide and generous a response. That is one of the cheerful features of the contemporary situation of the world. The appeal has only to be made—and it is being made in this country this year—to find a very wide section of the public responding, not casually but generously; and the growth of funds for this work has been quite spectacular. I believe we can also say that, as year succeeds year, the work is being done with increasing efficiency.
This Resolution makes two particular appeals to Her Majesty's Government, one for more generous financial support—and as I said a lot about that in the House last year I will not repeat it although the need still exists. The Motion asks for more generous treatment in regard to possible immigrants and particularly those who might be an economic liability and are probably handicapped in one way or another. This part of the refugee problem, in quantity only a small part, has been allowed by Governments to linger far too long. Its only solution is to migrate these helpless and increasingly hopeless people in the camps of Europe into other countries. This Resolution asks our Government to admit a few more on compassionate grounds. Well and good, if in 836 course of time they prove economic assets. But surely the country can afford to admit a few more on compassionate grounds. We owe it, I think, to our own good name to keep our level up with that of other countries; and I would suggest that we simply must not allow this responsibility for handling our financial affairs to rob this gesture of all its grace by being too stingy.
As we have heard, the present policy is that if such migrants are accepted they have to be the full financial responsibility of relatives or friends or various charitable organisations. Well, that is fair enough for the opening years. But to ask these organisations, or even families, to accept full financial responsibility right up to the day of their death, including the expenses of their funerals, is, I think, unworthy of a great country. We in this respect, I think, compare unfavourably with some of the smaller but very generous countries, notably those in the North of Europe. Therefore I would reinforce the appeal that, confronted with what is a very small demand upon the corporate charity of the nation and the State, it is not good enough to say a very qualified"Yes"; much less good enough to say,"This ought to be. Let somebody else do it."
When we were discussing this subject in the House a year ago I think we all realised that, however successful the World Refugee Year was going to be—and its success, I think, has outstripped expectations—the big problem of refugees is not going to be solved by this one effort, though it may be a long step forward. The unresolved problem, the continuing need, is going to remain. As far as charitable funds go, and as far as the charitable public goes, this year's all-out effort may allow some people to feel,"We have done our bit for refugees." It may be rather difficult to sustain the interest next year and the year after. Money will still be needed; and this is where, let me suggest, the support of the United Nations comes in and has to stay in. We have already been saying this in this House this afternoon. They have to keep the High Commissioner for Refugees in funds and keep their own contributions in step with the generosity of large sections of the public in this and other countries. Of course, as they have agreed to do, they have to continue to supply the funds, the 837 care, the administration for the rather static—in fact, growing—body, of refugees in Palestine.
That brings me to the point I want to make briefly before I sit down: that we should remind ourselves that the refugee problem is a political problem. It was caused by, its continuing dynamism is caused by, politics: the political upheavals, the political enmities in different parts of the world, and the far too easy acceptance of the terrible technique of expelling or"bumping off" your opponents or your ideological adversaries. The cure for this political problem must inevitably lie with the statesmen and the politicians; and it depends very largely on the capacity of the leaders of the United Nations to develop a more powerful dynamism than that which allows some countries to produce refugees. That drive on the part of the best statesmanship in the world can have the strength it needs only if it is reinforced by really strong and spiritual principles working themselves out in the field of political thought and political action. Does it not stand to reason that only an intelligent, humane, moral doctrine of co-existence and co-operation will evacuate the Gaza Strip of refugees or get the Arab States and Israel, instead of trying to divert each other's water supply, to join together in making their deserts into a fruitful and productive land where refugees and nationals can earn their living and make their homes? A similar situation applies to the situation in Hong Kong or Korea.
And what about Africa? Already a growing refugee problem is being found in Tunisia and Morocco owing to the state or affairs in Algeria. I would ask the question with some anxiety: Are racial tensions going to develop in the great continent of Africa in the remaining part of this century in such a way as to create yet one more formidable and dreadful refugee problem there, or will political foresight and statesmanship prevent that from happening? So, my Lords, I say just this in conclusion. May the success—I think the splendid success—of World Refugee Year as a combined operation, world-wide, in the field of charity., embolden and hearten Governments and statesmen to achieve an equally successful combined operation dealing with this problem in the more uncharitable field of world politics!
§ 5.17 p.m.
§ VISCOUNT ASTOR
My Lords, I should like to associate myself, as a humble member of the World Refguee Year Committee, with the tributes paid to the noble Baroness, Lady Elliot of Harwood, whose inspired leadership has not only produced this remarkable response from the general public but also enabled all the highly diverse voluntary bodies to work together in total harmony for at least ten months.
Now, my Lords, we have to decide as a nation whether we are really serious about this or not. So often we hear the brief which is supplied to the Government spokesman begin with a very moving picture of the refugee situation. It then goes on to pay a tribute to the voluntary bodies for what they have done; it then goes on to give a tremendous pat on our backs for the number of refugees we have taken in, both before and since the war. And then it goes on to state a large number of reasons why we should not do anything substantial further: that this country is not a country of immigration which can absorb a large number of refugees, and so forth and so on. Are we going to hear this again, or are we really going, as a country, to break down the barriers which have existed to taking as many as we possibly can, and not as few as possible for appearance's sake; to give as much money as we can afford and not just sufficient to compare favourably to any other country?
If we could take in after the war those thousands of Poles who fought with us; if we were able to absorb 15,000 Hungarians four years ago, when we were a less rich country, when our housing situation was infinitely worse, and when we were continually having balance of payments trouble, then now, in our present state of full employment, when we have"never had it so good," is it not absurd to say that we can take nothing more than a few hundred? So often it appears that, whatever may be the fine sentiments expressed, getting a refugee into this country is a form of obstacle race, or a version of"Snakes and Ladders," and families are put back for the sin of having too many children and so on. Surely we should say that there are only two reasons why we are going to refuse people entry now: 839 either that they are known criminals, or that we have reason to know that they are going to be Communist agents. Those should be the only valid reasons why at this moment we should prevent them from coming in.
Then we get this rather absurd phrase,"a genuine refugee". It is rather like that nauseating phrase of the Victorian era,"the deserving poor". What is a"genuine" refugee? I have seen refugees coming across the Hungarian frontier during the night. Some had been fighting the Communists; some had been young men who could not bear the horror of living under the Communists; some were those who, because their fathers had been so-called bourgeois, had had their education stopped at the age of twelve and had been condemned to manual labour for the rest of their lives; some had heard the propaganda put over by the B.B.C., about the opportunities and hopes of freedom, and wanted to come, encouraged by their parents, and find a freer life. We are told they are not genuine refugees: they are just economic refugees trying to better themselves.
If we turn those people back, as they are being turned back, either they are condemned to sit in camps and stagnate or they go back to the mercies of the Communist police. If they stagnate, they then send back to their families behind the Iron Curtain the letters and news of disillusionment. One of the great political factors we in the free world have in our favour at the moment is the fact that the Hungarian Revolution showed to the Communists that the satellite countries are solidly against them. But if we break faith with those people and disillusion them, a younger generation will come up which will have accepted Communism completely, and that anxiety which the Iron Curtain countries must have about the state of the satellite countries in a crisis is bound to diminish. Let us hear no more of that phrase,"the genuine refugee".
We must surely look to see what is the maximum we can do; and if we can take into this country at the moment a maximum of 80,000 coloured fellow-citizens from the Caribbean and elsewhere, with the minimum number of 15,000 a year, then surely 5,000 of 10,000 refugees is nothing. It is absolutely right that we 840 should take in our fellow-citizens from the Commonwealth, but we have to recognise that there are problems about the assimilation of coloured people which will go on for two or three generations. However, we know perfectly well that with Europeans the Mr. Shapiro of one generation becomes Mr. Shepherd of another, and is soon indistinguishable from people in this country. It is perfectly easy, but it is no answer, to say that one is our fellow-citizen and one is not. Surely if we, with our state of employment, and so forth, can absorb all these bodies coming in from outside, from the Caribbean and Africa, we could equally well take a much smaller number of European refugees. It is perfectly possible to do it.
If we take a really generous view then, like most fences when you come to jump them, if you do decide to jump them, they are not nearly so bad as they look; because, in fact, most of the refugees in Europe do not want to come to Great Britain. One reason is that their children have now been brought up to speak German. It is infinitely easier for them to settle in a country where they know the language than to move to a country where they have to learn a new language. Secondly, if they want to move, many of them want to go to the New World, where they feel there are greater opportunities and where they are further away from Communism. The third point, believe it or not, my Lords, is that they are quite convinced that England is a country perpetually shrouded in fog and rain. So that in fact it would propably not be more than 5,000 who would want to come, even if we had the most liberal, open-door policy to European refugees to-day. If our prosperity and our full employment change for the worse, we can always close the doors again. But let us make the big gesture now.
Then, when they come, let us be generous to them and give them the full benefits of National Assistance from the start. Because there is this very simple point; that if you put on the voluntary societies the burden of having to guarantee to look after these refugees, you prevent those voluntary societies from doing things which Governments cannot do. If the British Government wanted to start a vocational training centre for Arab children in Syria, it would be 841 regarded as a suspicious piece of British imperialism, but that is a thing which the voluntary societies can, and do, do. If the British Government wanted to start to do case work in refugee camps in foreign countries, it might be politically unacceptable; but that is a thing which voluntary societies can do. If the Government were to take on and relieve the voluntary societies of this obligation which they are now putting on them, then those societies could do things abroad which would probably get more results per pound spent—things which cannot be done by the Government.
We must think specially of the remaining victims of the concentration camps. Some of them are dying. I was told the other day of a boy of sixteen, a Pole. He was in the Resistance. He was captured, and he was tortured and put in Dachau. He had hopeless tuberculosis. After the war he had to sit in a German sanatorium, absolutely miserable, hating the Germans, the Germans despising the Pole. You can imagine being captured and tortured as a child and left to die slowly in a country which you loathe, and where you think they loathe you. That boy died last year, and was not able to get away. Even those who have got away and have gone to Belgium, and so forth, feel that they are among friends and are no longer among people from whom they suffered torture. It is a great psychological factor. Then there is this question of allowing people to join their families over here. Where a pair of refugees are settled in a job it takes five or six years to get a son to join them. It really is not good enough.
We are told that this question of giving them the full benefits of our social services is not a matter of money but is a matter of principle. My Lords, it is not a principle: it is merely an administrative rule to save ourselves from paying out a bit. It is not a principle. But if for various reasons, we cannot take a vast number into this country, then we must make an effort in Europe. We have had £200,000 from the Government, out of a Budget of £5,254 million last year: that is hardly more than 1 per cent. of 1 per cent. of what we are spending. That is not a real effort, when we can spend £14 million on calves, £22 million on pigs, and when we can increase our defence 842 budget by £150 million. When we can spend £44 million on roads; I think that if we forwent 50 miles of trunk road for a year, we could probably solve the European refugee problem.
My Lords, £200,000 is not a serious effort in a time of booming prosperity, with a Budget surplus. If we had that money, we could not merely clear the camps (and we must not think only of the camps, because for every refugee in a camp there are three or four outside, living in garrets, attics, cellars, shanties, and even in old bus bodies, where they have sometimes been for years); we could get them into decent houses. We could also provide them with some furniture. Some of them have not a stick of furniture to their names. We could give them vocational education and a chance of academic education for the really talented ones. We could also give them the tools of their trades. The other day, I proposed to the Worshipful Company of Musicians that £50 in their benevolent fund should be given to refugees who are musicians. That found one family a secondhand piano, which enabled the father to give lessons; and the whole family started moving up. For another musician a wind instrument was found and he is now playing in an orchestra.
That is an example of what can be done for families who cannot make their way for want of small sums which simply do not exist for them. We could also help them to get abroad, if they have a chance to emigrate, and we must look after the sad and miserable position of the old people. We may not get from what is left of the refugees many doctors or scientists: they have all been"skimmed off". But many of the children are remarkably intelligent. Of the first six who came over under the Ockenden venture, one girl has taken honours at Nottingham University, two are at Oxford, one is at a technical school and one has gained a scholarship to the Sadler's Wells Ballet School. In another generation we shall reap the benefit of these children, who are often of remarkable and intelligent stock.
For all these reasons, I appeal to the Government to give us a generous answer. I hope that the noble and learned Viscount the Lord Chancellor and the noble Marquess who is going to reply will report to the Cabinet the general 843 feeling of all Parties and all sections in your Lordships' House, that voluntary effort should be followed up by a really generous national contribution, which not merely does the minimum but does a little more than is comfortable. It is not enough to give the surplus in one's pocket. We shall get rid of this problem only if we give more in time and money than we can afford to do; but if we do this, I am sure that we can solve this European problem. Every refugee in Europe has the hope that World Refugee Year is going to help him. If it does not, there will be widespread disillusion, bitterness and sadness. If we allow them to go on as they are, it means that more and more money is going to be spent to keep them going, without any improvement. But if we get them started, it will cost us less in the end, and we shall have paid back a debt that we owe to humanity.
§ 5.35 p.m.
§ LORD HARDING OF PETHERTON
My Lords, I first came in contact with this problem of refugees in 1951, when I was holding the appointment of Commander-in-Chief, British Army of the Rhine. At that time, if my memory serves me correctly, there were some 40,000 to 50,000 of these unfortunate people in camps in the British Zone in Germany alone. There were more in the American Zone, some in the French Zone and more still in Austria. They included Czechs, Poles, Latvians, Lithuanians and Yugoslavs. They were the remnants of the great mass of our wartime friends and allies who had been uprooted from their homes during the war and imported into Germany as forced labour, or they were the final throw-up of the concentration camps. Little was known about them or the wretched conditions under which they lived, and little or nothing was done about them after the International Refugee Organisation went out of business that same year, 1951.
It was then that certain British women, the wives of Servicemen—soldiers, airmen and sailors of all ranks serving in Germany—formed themselves into groups to visit these camps and show these people that there were some people interested in them and their future. Since that small beginning made by British women, whose names are un- 844 known and whose praises have never been sung, a great deal has been done. But, in my experience, until recently the main effort has been by voluntary organisations. As has already been pointed out by the noble Lord, Lord Shackleton, Government leadership—and here I refer to all the successive Governments who have held office in this country since the war—has been sadly lacking, and the official attitude on this matter has more often than not been one of inertia.
In the Resolution before your Lordships, the noble Baroness, Lady Elliot of Harwood, in whose name the Motion stands, pays tribute to the British efforts in this field. I am sure that it is true, comparatively speaking, that our achievements have been considerable; but in the absolute they have been totally inadequate and very slow—deplorably slow. Those are hard words, but I believe them to be justified on two counts. The first is that it is now nearly fifteen years since the fighting stopped in Europe and the problem of settling in homes of their own the displaced persons of Allied races in Western Europe is still, after fifteen years, unresolved. Secondly, the magnificent response to the World Refugee Year appeal, which I would be the first to applaud, is, I believe—and I do not speak cynically—to some extent the reflection of a feeling of guilt in the public conscience in this matter. I can only hope that the conscience of the Government will be pricked to some purpose by what has been said in your Lordships' House this afternoon.
I should like to refer for a moment to one aspect of this problem which was mentioned by the noble Baroness and by the noble Viscount, Lord Astor, and that is the problem of the out-of-camp refugee, the displaced person, which was apt to be overlooked until very recently. By prodigious efforts during the past few years, the number of people still living in camps in Western Europe has been remarkably reduced, to something of the order of 20,000-odd, which is less than half the number who were living in camps when I was serving in Germany eight or nine years ago. But according to present information and to what was said this afternoon by the noble Baroness, there are a large number of displaced persons still not in homes of their own who do 845 not live in camps. As has already been said this afternoon, they live under the most wretched conditions, in the most terrible sub-standard shacks and hovels. There was one old man who was found quite recently living for shelter in a hole that he burrowed in a haystack.
The number of these people is not known, although the noble Baroness, Lady Elliot of Harwood, referred to a figure of 100,000. But I am told that the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees, who has now accepted responsibility for these people, has estimated that he will need an additional 25 million dollars to resettle in homes of their own the out-of-camp displaced persons still in Western Europe—the"free livers" as they are called. I am very much afraid that unless this additional requirement is fairly and squarely faced and made more widely known than it is now, and before World Refugee Year comes to an end, it will slip back into the same slow motion process that characterised the handling of the whole of this problem before World Refugee Year was started.
Finally, having had some real and personal, if limited, experience of the human suffering that is involved, I should like to add my plea to that of the noble Baroness, Lady Elliot of Harwood, and urge the Government to make a further substantial contribution to the World Refugee Year fund and to adopt a more flexible and more generous attitude and policy in regard to admitting refugees here. The continued existence of this problem is a great scar on Western civilisation. In the Middle East and the Far East, where I have also seen something of the problem for myself during the years since the war, it will take a long time and call for immense resources to settle. But in Europe, as various speakers have already pointed out, it is manageable and could be quickly resolved if sufficient funds were provided.
The noble Viscount, Lord Astor, has already drawn your Lordships' attention to certain specific cases of what can be done with comparatively small sums, and I should like to add three more. With £300 a Russian out-of-camp refugee was enabled to start a small beekeeping industry which is now a thriving 846 concern and provides a good livelihood as well as a home for himself and his family. With £100 a Polish chemist was provided with a small laboratory from which he is making a living and at the same time doing useful work. A grant of £50 per family to provide furniture has made it possible for many families to accept the offer of a flat and so move from a camp to a home of their own. And what a wealth of meaning there is in those words,"A home of their own"! This is a human problem that must touch everyone's heart, and I most devoutly hope that the Government will respond with real generosity to the appeal of the noble Baroness, Lady Elliot of Harwood, and so help on the magnificent work in which she is giving all of us in this country such inspiring leadership in this World Refugee Year.
§ 5.45 p.m.
§ BARONESS SWANBOROUGH
My Lords, I should like to add my tribute to the noble Baroness, Lady Elliot of Harwood, and the wonderful work that World Refugee Year has done in making the country as a whole aware of a problem which it should have faced long ago. I think the response to the appeal shows the impact that this call has made on all thinking men and women of the country. But I also feel that the response in cash is due to the individual contribution of men and women who have given more than they could afford and more, in fact, than the people who sign cheques just because they were called upon to do so. This makes me think that a point that has not been made sufficiently strongly by any of us is that the men and women of this country to-day have decided that they would like to undertake and carry through something that will remove this tragedy from the world, but many of them are in doubt as to how they are to do it.
There is no permanent solution of the refugee problem unless every one of us plays his or her part in that solution; and men and women throughout Great Britain, I am quite convinced, have been aroused in this World Refugee Year to undertake their particular part and play it until the tragedy is obliterated. As I travel the country I am very conscious of the interest that has been aroused and of the recognition that in this matter 847 every one must participate. I think the realisation has come in a variety of ways—and here I must declare an interest, in that I belong to a service that has undertaken as part of its contribution to process and despatch 1,000 tons of secondhand clothing. As the people work on that clothing their interest is further aroused. They realise, to their shame, that they have not done things sooner in this vast field; and as people realise these things they will undertake and carry through. But it is this personal interest, the collective responsibility interest, the community interest, that I feel must be used as World Refugee Year comes to the end of its undertakings, although it will never close what it has started.
World Refugee Year is going to make a tremendous impact on the solving of many problems, but in the directions that the noble Lord, Lord Harding of Petherton, has just mentioned, of adoption and of sponsorship, the continuity of help to men and women in despair can be assured. In this country a great many different schemes are operating. A readiness to take part in real assistance to refugees is being shown, not only by voluntary organisations but by communities as such, and by individuals; and a very fine example has been set by the County of Surrey, who have put forward a magnificent scheme and who through the county districts are hoping to set a pattern which many other counties will, I trust, follow.
I should like to appeal to Her Majesty's Government, however, in a different direction. All of us believe—we have said it again and again, in different ways, in this House—that the family unit is of paramount importance. We believe it is the natural, understandable and right unit. When a family is not only a family, but is the only asset that a small set of people possess, it assumes very special proportions indeed; and I feel that we should do our utmost to preserve that family in its entirety. The refugee families we are now discussing and considering are those who have been faced with years and years of misery in order not to break up their own family unit. Because of a brother with tuberculosis, or a mother with cancer, or a small child who, through a 848 brain injury, can never be a normal child, a whole family has lived all these years in a dreadful and unhappy way.
Government regulations, framed meticulously by men and women of goodwill but of chairbound experience, have forbidden the entry into various countries of people with disabilities, specified diseases and handicaps. As we talk of handicaps to-day, and the fact that we are going to be allowed to bring handicapped people into this country, we are ignoring the fact that we are being allowed to bring into the country only people with handicaps that can be cured. Refugees, human beings like ourselves, like the people we love, have reached a stage of utter hopelessness because they have no chance of being allowed to come to a country, due to the fact that one of their family is diseased and without hope of cure. An ordinary British family which has a member who is incurable takes care of that person. Why should we imagine that a refugee family coming into our midst, helped by the goodwill of the country itself, would not do exactly the same?
My hope is that Her Majesty's Government, strengthened by the realisation that the feeling in the country is as strong as it is, will permit the entry, within each family, of a diseased or an incurable person who, in spite of the fact that he or she cannot recover, could be looked after by their own family. Can any one of us here envisage what we should feel if we were without hope because there was no future for our own family simply on the ground that one member of the family was suffering from an incurable illness? Regulations are made by men and women to be, I hope, applied differently in altered circumstances and special situations. This nation has shown in this respect of refugees, as it has always shown before, that it is conscious of the responsibility which the men and women of the country have towards such tragic persons, and I dare hope that Her Majesty's Government will support the schemes on foot with all the understanding and humane interpretation possible, and, in their wisdom, will give the backing to the nation which will make the nation's response a tangible expression of a free people's understanding of the greatest human tragedy of our time.
§ 5.52 p.m.
My Lords, I welcome the Motion of the noble Baroness, Lady Elliot of Harwood, and the achievement of the World Refugee Year, and also the reminder that it was a British idea in the first place. I have no experience of refugee work myself, and I speak with diffidence and great brevity. I wanted to refer, as certain of your Lordships have already referred, to the question of Algerian refugees. It strikes me that it has been a notable omission from the World Refugee Year that the Algerian refugees have not been included. For instance, there is the fact that there is the vast number of 200,000, and the fact that they have gone either to Tunisia or to Morocco, countries with great problems of their own, with low standards of living, and not properly or easily equipped to look after them. I do not think that the imagination of the world has been sufficiently struck by the Algerian situation, which is more or less on the scale of Hungary. I believe there are more than 50 per cent. of children among these 200,000 refugees.
I do not want to press the point, but it seems to me that perhaps some political reason has been involved in not including the Algerian problem, for the reason that we do not want to interfere with the colonial affairs of France. I think that that is understandable. We do not want in any way to affect relations with France, our closest friend. But as we have a colonial problem ourselves, I do not think we ought to feel that in succouring the Algerian refugees we are in any way trying to teach France a lesson as regards colonial matters and problems. A long-standing civil war has led these people into Tunisia and Morocco. The help of the British Government and the help of the voluntary societies has not been direct, as it has been from some Eastern countries. I think there is a great fear that the Algerian refugees and people of North Africa may tend to look to the East rather than to the West, and to feel that their salvation lies in that direction. There has been a great deal of help from the Eastern part of Europe.
Could not the British Government give some direct gift? I feel that it would be important politically to do that. It might, I suppose, even be said 850 that these people, technically, are not refugees from Algeria, as they could go back into the protection of the French Empire. I have said that we have our own colonial problem, and we need not be lecturing France by giving this help. I do not know whether the political reason is an active one, but in so far as it is a reason at all, I hope that we shall not let any ideas of a political colour worry us.
§ 5.56 p.m.
THE LORD BISHOP OF CHELMSFORD
My Lords, in supporting this Motion, I should like to say a few words first of all as an ordinary Christian and, secondly, as an ordinary citizen. First of all, as a Christian I am glad that on such an occasion I can speak not just as representing one particular branch of the Christian Church, the Church of England, but in the name of all my fellow Christians of all denominations. As one who was profoundly concerned for Christian unity, I am happy to-day to realise, and I know your Lordships are happy to realise, that when confronted with a great mass of human suffering the demands of Christ upon his disciples are such that Christians of all denominations know they must speak together with a united voice, and must act together.
The British Council of Churches, of whose Executive I happen to be a member, represents all the leading Christian Churches of this country with the exception of the Roman Catholic Communion, and it is a striking fact that, through its interchange and Refugee Service, £400,000 has already been contributed by the Churches towards World Refugee Year, towards the £1,700,000 to which reference has already been made. Of this sum contributed by the Churches, £250,000 was given by Church members of all denominations as a result of a Christmas appeal. This is no matter for self-satisfaction or congratulation, and I mention it solely for interest. It is, indeed, the least that Christians can do, and much more is required.
It is easy enough for any man or woman, with Christian allegiance or not, to give on the spur of the moment when moved by the plight of refugees. It is not so easy to go on giving year by year, with a continually sustained sympathy; and no man or woman, least of all a disciple of Christ, can rest content to 851 enjoy the comforts of his own home, particularly in this land in which we know comparative security, whilst hundreds of thousands of men, women and children are still barely existing in appalling conditions—what is described by Punch, in its telling December issue, as"mouldering away in camps."
I should like to say a few words on a much broader basis as a citizen of this country. I am convinced myself, from my many contacts, that the national conscience has been aroused profoundly by the plight of refugees. The splendid response to this World Refugee Appeal is a clear proof of this. The conscience of our nation cannot be allowed to rest, and, indeed, I believe will not allow itself to rest so long as there are still men and women who, at the risk of their lives, have sought sanctuary in a world they believe to be a free world, and are allowed to continue to live in appalling conditions all around us. It is not enough to expect this great human problem to be solved by charity alone. I believe it can be solved only by much more generous direct help from all Governments, including our own. I am convinced that Her Majesty's Government would have the support of the whole nation if they were prepared to pursue a much more liberal policy than hitherto they have felt able to pursue.
The problem is immense. When we realise, as we have been reminded this afternoon, that there are still a million refugees in Hong Kong, over half of whom, in the words of the Governor, are living in the most appalling conditions in huts made of tin sheets, cardboard and sacking—squalid insanitary horrors, five or six people living in 40 square feet, with no ventilation and no drains; when we realise the conditions in which a million Arab refugees are still living in camps and shacks, and that there are still 160,000 unsettled refugees in Europe of whom 20,000 or more are still living in camps, we may well be daunted or appalled. We should all want to express our appreciation to Her Majesty's Government for the contribution that they have made already by way of financial help and facilitating immigration of refugees to this country, but much more must be done if we are to solve this terrible problem.
852 I remind your Lordships of the illustrious example set by the small country of Sweden in 1948, when they decided to admit 2,000 completely unfit human beings into their country. We all rejoice in the recent decision to welcome 210 refugees, including T.B. victims, into this country of ours, but I know from the debate this afternoon that your Lordships will agree that much more must be done if we are to be worthy of our great national tradition. We have a tradition in this nation for a liberal humanitarian approach to great social problems and great human needs, and if we are to be worthy of that tradition much more must be done to solve this great international world problem.
The noble Baroness and other speakers have indicated practical ways in which the Government could give very concrete assistance in the solution of this problem. I would first express the hope that so far as financial aid is concerned Her Majesty's Government may be able to give much more generous help than hitherto. We are all greatly encouraged by the wonderful response to the World refugee appeal. It is my hope that the target of £2 million may be raised, and it would be a wonderful gesture by Her Majesty's Government, if the target could be raised, to make the first and generous contribution to the enlarged figure. Secondly, so far as the reception of a much larger number of immigrants is concerned, I would express the hope that Her Majesty's Government may feel able to relax many of the present restrictions and pursue a much more generous policy.
Many of us read in the issue of Punch last December a very moving report submitted to the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees, illustrated by very telling, moving cartoons by Ronald Searle. That report ended in this way:What is needed to empty the camps this World Refugee Year? The answer is deceptively simple. That every country should ease open its bureaucratic door and undertake to accept without 'ifs' or 'buts' a tiny percentage of sick, or economically useless, human beings, to balance what they have gained from the others. A gesture of this nature on governmental level would gain active support.It is a risk perhaps, but the author says:It is a risk a nation can afford to take. For the children will flourish and put down roots, and the dank, dismal, hopeless camps 853 of Europe will no longer be on the conscience of what we like to call The Free World.May this nation not rest content until, not only from charity but by direct Government help, we have helped to heal completely this terrible sore in the life of the great human family of which we are members. Wholeheartedly I support the Resolution.
§ 6.7 p.m.
§ LORD CHORLEY
My Lords, I was very much struck by an observation of my noble friend Lord Shackleton during the course of his very interesting and forceful speech in which he said that Africa had now come into this problem. That is very true, and I was glad that not only he but my noble friend Lord Noel-Buxton drew attention to the particularly difficult and important aspect of this which has resulted from the tremendous exodus of people from Algeria into both Tunisia and Morocco, which, as they pointed out, is outside the World Refugee Year but obviously is one of the most difficult aspects of the whole of this world-wide problem and one which calls for tremendous effort if great suffering and misery is not to result from what has happened there.
This, Lord Shackleton suggested, might very well be only a preliminary—he hoped not—to similar refugee incidents all over that great continent which is very much in the public eye and very much in world history at the present time. It so happens that a small refugee problem is already beginning to develop as a result of the apartheid policy of the South African Government, and that, of course, is within our own British Commonwealth of Nations. It seems to me to be already larger than the famous"cloud, no bigger than a man's hand" which grew to enormous dimensions. There are already arriving in this country refugee scholars and teachers from the universities in South Africa who have been dismissed from their posts because of their refusal to apply the doctrine of segregation which is against the whole principle and instincts of those of us who work in the universities. As a result of that, refugees, displaced scholars, are already arriving in this country, in exactly the same sort of way that they came here from Germany at the time of Hitler. At the moment they are being looked after by the resources of the university teachers in this country. It may well be that in 854 time that will pass beyond the capacities of a part of the community which is not well endowed with financial resources. I felt it right to bring to your attention this part of the problem, because it is within our own Commonwealth of Nations and it may well be—we hope to God it will not be!—significant of unfortunate developments in the future. I hope we shall be able to guard against this aspect of it, at any rate.
§ 6.10 p.m.
§ VISCOUNT ALEXANDER OF HILLSBOROUGH
My Lords, I must say at once that I am speaking to-night on this important Motion only because my noble friend Lord Pakenham, who has given a great deal of thought and study to this great movement, was unable to remain to do so. I am very happy, however, to be able to join in and to support the pleas which have been made in your Lordships' House to-day. One could not possibly have listened to the speech of the noble Baroness, Lady Elliot of Harwood, and learned in such detail of the vast work that has been done by the organisation of the World Refugee Year, without being moved in heart and spirit. We can all be deeply grateful to her, not only for the great work she has done as Chairman of the Committee but also for the manner in which she has presented their case to your Lordships' House today. I listened, too, with great interest to the noble Baroness, Lady Swan-borough. Perhaps she will forgive me for recalling that she made her maiden speech in this House upon the displaced persons problem, and it did come to my heart, as she was speaking, how grateful we ought to be that at last in the movement of time we have seen fit to have among our Life Peers women who understand these things, perhaps in a manner and to a degree which is not always the possession of the masculine and who are able to put such a case for the family as the noble Baroness put to-night.
I should like, first of all, to be associated with the plea, which was afterwards taken up by the right reverend Prelate the Lord Bishop of Chelmsford, made by the noble Baroness for a proper consideration of the family unit. It seems to me that there ought to be no real difficulty, in the ultimate, if the Government removed some of the present regulations, and provided proper clinical attention and prescription for the diseased or in- 855 curably diseased person in a family. Because of one sick person we should not keep them as a family in misery when they can come in and have proper attention. I was greatly moved by that suggestion.
I feel that we ought also to be grateful for the revelation that, when everybody is willing to"have a go" at Christianity, and to criticise the structure, organisation or rubric or practice of our Churches, they have been recognised as being at any rate partly pioneers in this particular work. It is a very gratifying thing to me to have been listening here to-day and to have discovered what is actually being done. Nor is there any doubt about the correctness of the statement made by the right reverend Prelate as to the manner in which the conscience of the people has been stirred. The evidence comes in different ways. You can find it by the way in which the United Nations organisation branches work in different parts of the country, sometimes in difficult circumstances, in which at first there is a good deal of difficulty in getting a movement to help in regard to this particular kind of fund. I am quite sure that the noble Lady has had some talk with the university students in London. They went out at night in the dead of winter, and what they found in response from the public was quite astonishing. That is the sort of evidence that one can take into account in considering what is the general national outlook to the matter.
But again and again, as you come to deal with this fund, you come back to the point of last March. Perhaps nobody took a more correctly broad view of the financial situation then than the noble Earl, Lord Woolton. I hope that when the Minister makes his reply to-night he will keep in mind that when it was proposed (I think by the right reverend Prelate the Lord Bishop of Sheffield) in the debate last year that, at any rate as a first step, the £100,000 which was the first Government contribution should be increased to £250,000, and that the figure should go on being increased at the same rate until it reached £1 million, the noble Earl, Lord Woolton, thought that that was quite insufficient. He thought that, to do the job really properly, instead of a contribution from the Government, first of 856 £100,000 to £250,000, the figure should be at least five times that amount; and five times more the following year. When such a suggestion comes from so strong a supporter of Her Majesty's Government as the noble Earl, Lord Woolton, one would hope that it would be taken into grave and earnest consideration by the Government.
Nine months have now elapsed; and whilst we are all grateful that the £100,000 was increased to £200,000, it is obvious that if we are going to tackle this job really effectively, with the present basis of costs and the like, and if we are going to get the kind of permanent solutions which have been touched upon so movingly by so many noble Lords to-night, not least by the noble Viscount, Lord Astor, who I thought gave every possible reason to the Government for helping in this particular matter, the noble Marquess, who I understand is going to answer, should perhaps, before he answers the debate, have another look to see what he said last year. I am sure that he will feel that he was exceedingly clever: because, whilst undoubtedly he was personally greatly moved, he was exceedingly cautious in the Parliamentary language which he used to safeguard the Government, in case their contribution was going to be much smaller than was being requested by Members of your Lordships' House. I think that perhaps he had better have another look at his speech and make up his mind that this time he is going to make such a report of this debate, first to the Foreign Office, perhaps, because of their great interest in the refugee problem, and secondly to the Treasury, that something really substantial will be done.
I think that it is a very good thing when great causes like this become questions for great Christian, humanitarian and citizen support. But, my Lords, I cannot help remembering that there is a large part of the national life which does not come into this contribution, and the Government are responsible for seeing that the whole country contributes. The Government really are responsible. The Scriptures say:The nation that will not serve thee shall perish.If we are a Christian country of the nature that many of us, at any rate, hope we are, I should have thought that 857 where there is a gap in the national contribution to these great ideas the Government should certainly see that the citizenship as a whole contributes its proper quota.
There is only one other thing that I would say tonight. The plea which has been made with regard to the new situation in Algeria is one which I think should be carefully studied by the Foreign Office. They know much more than at present seems likely, but the danger may become greater. Moreover, some of my noble friends have been disappointed in regard to the great work that we acknowledge has been done in the last few years in providing immigration opportunities in this country for refugees from overseas. We have been disappointed because of the bad conditions obtaining in Germany relating to refugees from other countries who have never got beyond the refugee camps there. Few of them have been brought in under the latest efforts of the Government in this respect. Can something be done about that? I understand that a Commission is visiting Germany at the present time. The number referred to in the report was only about 200. If something could be done to step up the operation in that respect I am quite sure that many people would be glad to see Polish, Czech and Hungarian refugees from Germany given a proper quota in the amount of immigration which is allowed to refugees of their kind. In conclusion, I would only say how grateful I am that the noble Baroness introduced this Resolution, and to all those who have spoken in support of it. We on this side of the House shall be glad to give it every possible support.
§ 6.20 p.m.
§ THE MARQUESS OF LANSDOWNE
My Lords, it certainly would take a very hard-hearted Government spokesman not to have been moved by the speeches to which I have listened this afternoon, and for my part, would like to thank the noble Baroness, the mover of this Motion, for bringing this important subject to the attention of your Lordships and of the country as a whole. I am bound to say that during the course of the debate I could not help feeling that less than justice was being done to the very considerable contribution that has been made by Her Majesty's Government, and 858 I make no apology whatsoever to my noble friend, Lord Astor, for reminding him of what the Government have in fact done. Our post-war contribution to this most important of human problems is no less than £200 million. Really we cannot just brush that figure aside. Although Lord Shackleton was good enough to refer to the £2 million we give to U.N.R.W.A., I wondered for a moment whether perhaps he had forgotten the other amounts, for £200 million is not an inconsiderable contribution.
§ THE MARQUESS OF LANSDOWNE
That has been since the war. I can give the noble Viscount the exact details for I have all the figures here, but I do not propose to do that now.
§ LORD SHACKLETON
My Lords, if the noble Marquess would permit me to interrupt, may I say that if that is an appropriate target, would he then consider that we should sustain a Government contribution at the same rate that has been spread over these years?
§ THE MARQUESS OF LANSDOWNE
My Lords, the noble Lord must be good enough to allow me to develop my theme. If he wishes to interrupt later on he will do so, of course. But I should like to go on with what I have to say: that the impression should not go out of this House that the British Government has in fact made a negligible contribution. Furthermore, let us remember how many people have been received into this country—no less than a quarter of a million. The noble Lord, Lord Shackleton, used an interesting figure that I have never heard before—that one in every seventy people born into the world to-day is a refugee. Let me tell noble Lords that one in every 200 of the people of the United Kingdom at the present time have been refugees; so, with great respect to noble Lords, I do not think that we have anything of which to be ashamed in our efforts. In saying that, however, I do not for a moment wish to belittle the remarkable achievements of the committee which is being so ably chaired by my noble friend Baroness Elliot of Harwood.
When I spoke in the debate of March of last year I expressed a hope that if 859 we in this country were able to achieve a great result by voluntary contributions, all Governments' Exchequers would be influenced; and the noble Viscount the Leader of the Opposition was good enough to remind me of what I then said. I consider that the great effort that has been made by this country has in fact brought about just such a thing. Sixty-four countries (I may be incorrect, but that is the figure I have) out of the 82 members of the United Nations are now active participants in the World Refugee Year, and I believe it is very largely due to the private initiative of people in this country—and, after all, it was private initiative—that Governments throughout the world have been galvanised into a state of great activity.
The noble Baroness is certainly a person who must be difficult to refuse. She, with her devoted band of followers and the members of the voluntary organisations, has pleaded throughout the country. We do not yet know what remarkable results they have achieved, but we have an idea that the figure is very considerable. Now it is in the nature of a successful pleader to believe that those who do not seek do not get, and although, when the noble Lady first framed her Motion, she excluded any reference to financial aid on the part of Her Majesty's Government, I was not surprised to see, a little later, that she had changed her mind and suggested that there should be a further donation from Her Majesty's Government.
The noble Viscount, Lord Alexander of Hillsborough, has said something with which I entirely agree. I understood him to say that we should all make a contribution—that citizenship as a whole should make a contribution. Well, if the citizenship as a whole are to make a contribution, I suppose the Government have to do something about it. What we have been saying throughout the course of this debate is that because the public have responded in such a magnificent way the Government, for their part, should make another contribution. I do not have to remind noble Lords and Ladies of where the Government's money comes from; so we will leave it at that.
I am not in a position to give any indication to the House whether or not 860 Her Majesty's Government propose to make a further contribution to the World Refugee Year, and it is not for me to forecast what may or may not happen. But of one thing I am perfectly certain: that is, that Her Majesty's Government welcome the great initiative that has been taken by the public of the United Kingdom. But I do not think it necessarily follows from that, that because the public have been very generous, Her Majesty's Government should then exact a further tribute from them However, we shall see.
On the question of the admission of more refugees into this country, again and again noble Lords and Ladies have urged Her Majesty's Government to be more elastic in their regulations, to be more generous and more imaginative. Of all these sentiments I have taken careful note. The noble Lord, Lord Amulree, referred to tubercular cases. The position at the moment is that out of the first 200 refugees who are coming into the country—and not all have yet arrived—21 are tubercular cases. The noble Baroness, Lady Swanborough, is perfectly correct in asserting that so far the regulations allow only for curable cases, but I believe that that attitude may be very sympathetically considered by the Department concerned. I cannot go further than that.
On the question of the uniting of families, of course we all agree that the family unit is the first element of civilisation; and so, wherever it is economically possible, Her Majesty's Government will continue to do everything in their power to unite families. In fact we already do so. Where there is a refugee settled in this country and earning money, we allow the members of the family to come in, as the noble Baroness well knows; and close relations and even more distant relations receive specially sympathetic consideration, each case being looked at on its own merits. I believe that both the Home Office and the Ministry of Health, as well as the Department to which I belong, try to view this problem in a sympathetic way. Really, at times to-day in the course of the debate I wondered whether I was associated with a number of inhuman men. This is not so. We in Her Majesty's Government feel this problem just as much as do noble Lords and 861 Ladies who have spoken in this debate. But, alas! we have not only to be guided by our hearts; we have also to be guided by our heads; and therefore it is necessary for certain limitations, certain criteria, certain categories, to be evolved.
On the question of categories, as the noble Baroness, Lady Elliot of Harwood, welt knows, a list of the type of people was evolved which covered this first small arrival of refugees, and in it were included tuberculosis cases. In it, I am happy to say, were included people who were severely handicapped, and of course it is particularly the severely handicapped whom we want to help. That is a matter into which we are looking very carefully indeed. There is a further survey shortly to be made. This proposal was suggested by Her Majesty's Government and was warmly welcomed by the noble Baroness, Lady Elliot of Harwood, and was heartily approved by Dame May Curwen, of the B.C.A.R. The proposal is that we shall send to Europe a team which will go to investigate in certain centres the exact position of the refugees there. We will ascertain exactly how many seriously handicapped people there are. There is, I must tell your Lordships, a certain element of doubt about the facts. It is something which we want to get at the root of, and we will discuss with these people who of them would like to come to this country.
My noble friend Lord Astor assured us that many of these unfortunate people will not wish to come here. He may or may not be right, but what we propose to do is to talk with these people, to gain information about their case; and then we will decide what next is to be done. So to-day I do not wish to speak about targets or figures; I simply wish to tell your Lordships what we propose to do. We wish to get more information about this problem, and we may well find that it is, in fact, manageable. So I beg your Lordships on this occasion to wait and see. And let me assure you that this is a matter which every member of Her Majesty's Government approaches with quite as much sympathy as any noble Lords or Ladies in this Chamber may have.
There are one or two details, one or two questions, that were put to me, and 862 I will try to answer all of them. If I miss any, perhaps those of the noble Lords still in the Chamber will ask me about them. I was asked how much of the £200,000 promised had actually been paid. The answer is that £50,000 was paid in August, a further £50,000 will be paid next month, and the balance of £100,000 will be paid in April. That is the position over Her Majesty's Government's contribution towards the World Refugee Year.
A number of noble Lords referred to Algeria. There is nothing, I think that I can usefully say in this debate about the Algerian refugees. We are very conscious of the problem, but they are, in fact, as the noble Lord, Lord Noel-Buxton, is well aware, outwith the target of the World Refugee Year. But as the noble Lord, Lord Amulree, mentioned in the course of his remarks, Her Majesty's Government did make a contribution. I thought that the noble Lord, Lord Shackleton, was a little scathing, if I may say so. Thirteen thousand pounds is not a trifle, and it was in fact very gratefully received. We gave oil which tided over these unfortunate people, I am happy to say, for a month. If a small contribution, none the less, it showed the earnestness of our wish to help. Over the question of the seamen, which was raised by the noble Lord, Lord Shackle-ton, I am afraid that I have no information. I will make it my business to find out. On the question of the Council of Europe's resolution, that resolution, came into my hands only to-day. As the noble Lord knows, delegates to the Council of Europe are perfectly free to make any decisions they like, but of course Her Majesty's Government could give some indication of what the Governmental feeling is. At the moment, I am not in a position to comment on this resolution since, as I say, it arrived in my hands only to-day and I have been unable to study it. But I can assure the noble Lord that I will take careful note of it.
I think that probably the most important thing that has happened is on this matter of opening the gates to the handicapped refugee. That is a great achievement, of which this country can be justly proud and to which the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees, Dr. Lindt, has on more than 863 one occasion referred. He has said that this was the example, above all, which he wished to have set. The United Kingdom have set that example. The United Kingdom have given this great initiative and this great impact that has hit the whole world.
But now I come to the words of warning that were given by the right reverend Prelate the Lord Bishop of Chelmsford, and they were echoed by the noble Lord, Lord Noel-Buxton. It is not likely that we can solve this problem in one World Refugee Year, and therefore, my Lords, we have to face the fact that there must be sustained sympathy and not just a short period of emotion. The British public have played a magnificent part, and the noble Baroness, Lady Elliot of Harwood, has given a great lead. I have never believed that, because we live in a Welfare State, private generosity was 864 likely to dry up. Here we have had proof, if proof were needed, that private generosity has not dried up. I have never been able to believe that the British man or woman did not care for his or her fellow men and women in other parts of the world and here, this year, we have had a fine example showing that they do. Let me assure noble Lords that this fine example will certainly not be taken by Her Majesty's Government as an opportunity for slackening speed.
§ 6.39 p.m.
§ BARONESS ELLIOT OF HARWOOD
My Lords, I understand that the Government are accepting the Resolution, and that I just move that the House accept my Resolution. Is that correct?
§ On Question, Resolution agreed to.
§ House adjourned at twenty minutes before seven o'clock.