HL Deb 20 October 1966 vol 277 cc124-84

3.23 p.m.

BARONESS ELLIOT OF HARWOOD rose to draw attention to the World Refugee problem; and to move for Papers. The noble Baroness said: My Lords, I rise to-day to speak to the Motion in my name on the Order Paper, just a few days before the European Appeal for Refugees is to be opened in eighteen countries in Europe and also in Australia and New Zealand—a Week which I hope will be immensely successful. It is being organised by the European nations for the refugees in Africa, in Asia and in the Far East.

The speech I am making to-day should have been made by one who first put this Motion on the Order Paper—the late Lord Astor, and it is in remembrance of all that he did for refugees and for the voluntary organisations which work for refugees that I am making this speech. Lord Astor's interest in the problems of refugees began when he took an active part in the tragic events in Hungary in 1956. He also took an active part in the Committee which organised the appeal for refugees during World Refugee Year, 1959–60, of which I was Chairman, and he took on the responsible job of being the Chairman of the continuing Committee after World Refugee Year had ended. It was he, with Prince Bernhard of the Netherlands and other Europeans, who planned the European Refugee Week which is starting on Monday, and I should like to pay tribute to the splendid devotion and leadership which he gave to this work. He is much missed at the present time and I know that he would have spoken with very deep feeling on the Motion which I am discussing with your Lordships this afternoon.

It will be a great day in history when "man's inhumanity to man" will end and people can be left in peace to lead their lives in their own countries in their own way but, alas! this seldom happens. Just as we have finished with the problems of one world war, terrible upheavals in other parts of the world come upon us. We have very little warning of these happenings and the results of them are unexpected. One of the great problems which the world has to face—a problem which never seems to vanish—is that of refugees. However, there are some satisfactory things to report since your Lordships last debated this subject, and I would give some account of these this afternoon.

In Europe, where once 90,000 people were living in camps, to-day there are only 500 or so of the original refugees, and these are mainly old people and prob- lem families, whom it is difficult to place but who, in the end, will be found places in homes or institutions. Of the 650,000 refugees in Europe in 1956–57, only 12,000 remain, including the 500 I have mentioned. This is a very encouraging story. It represents years of hard work on the part of voluntary organisations, of Governments and of the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees.

To-day refugees are still coming from the Eastern section of Europe, escaping from Communism. They are estimated to number about 10,000 a year, but, on the whole, they are young people who can find work and can be absorbed. The Western nations, the United States, Australia, Canada and New Zealand, are very generous in opening their frontiers to take in refugees. I think that this very encouraging attitude is partly the result of the success of the World Refugee Year.

I must pay a sincere tribute to the work of the United Nations High Commission for Refugees. Year after year, through thick and thin, tackling problem after problem, the High Commissioner and his staff and those who work with them make possible the practical solution of the refugee problem.

To-day the problem in Europe is so much better that it could be said that it is almost solved, but in Asia and Africa the position is far from encouraging. It is growing much worse. There are still 1,100,000 Chinese refugees in Hong Kong, for whom we, the British, have the main responsibility. The Hong Kong Government have built houses, schools and clinics, started 29 training colleges, and done everything possible, but the problem remains of enormous proportions. The voluntary organisation who are working there with the Hong Kong Government are helping in every way they possibly can, but it is a most intractable problem.

Then there are the refugees in Tibet. There are 44,000 Tibetans in India, 7,000 in Nepal, 5,000 in Bhutan and 3,000 in Skim. One can say these figures quite quickly, but what a problem this represents! We know the difficulties in India at the present time. It is difficult enough for them to find enough food for their own population. Here is another vast mass of hungry and starving people, poverty-stricken, being given asylum and help in food and clothing. Here the voluntary agencies—Oxfam, the British Council of Churches, Save the Children Fund and the Red Cross—are all helping. The hope is that in time we shall be able to settle these people on the land and, if possible, make them self-supporting.

The problem of refugees in Africa, from African States, is now on a colossal and depressing scale. There are 253,000 refugees from Angola—the great proportion of them now in the Congo and some in Zambia; 3,000 from Burundi, 70,000 from the Congo to other African States, 15,000 from Mozambique to Tanzania and Zambia, 55,000 from Portuguese Guinea, 161,000 from Rwanda and 100,000 from the Sudan.

These vast movements of population create terrible problems. The Congo, not the most suitable of countries, has to find food and clothing for 318,000 refugees; Senegal 55,000; Tanzania 28,000; Uganda 145,000; Zambia 6,000; Burundi 79,000; Macao 80,000. All this falls on the organisation of the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees and those people who work and help him, and he can give only what is given to him; that is to say, the funds that are available for the United Nations High Commissioner are only those funds that are contributed by the countries who are members of the United Nations. Some are generous and do all they can; and I think the British Government have a fine record in this respect. Some could pay much more. But the fact is that the amount of money required is now on an enormous scale, and is something that must strike the consciences of all civilised countries.

The material assistance given by the High Commissioner last year was£1 million, contributed by Governments; our Government gave£121,178. But the voluntary agencies raised and distributed£280,000, which is no mean task, and is a figure of which we can be proud. But in the coming year, 1967, the High Commissioner will want £1,500,000 to help African refugees. This does not take into account the tragic happenings so recently in Nigeria, about which I am sure we all read—certainly, speaking for myself, I did—with despair in the newspapers on Sunday. No wonder there is a great call from European countries to help the African nations! When we hear the voice of Prince Bernhard on Sunday evening on television and on the radio we shall know that the appeal has started, and that this time it is for Asians and Africans more than any other countries.

I turn now for a moment from the African situation and the Far East to what is going on among the Arab refugees and the work of the United Nations Relief and Works Agency—that is to say, U.N.R.W.A. Here we have, I think, a very encouraging story to tell. U.N.R.W.A. has been responsible for starting vocational training centres among the Arab refugees, and this policy has developed and is developing highly satisfactorily. There are now ten centres in Jordan, Syria, Lebanon and the Gaza Strip. In 1960 there were 300 trainees graduating from these technical colleges: today there are 4,000 students in these colleges, and 2,000 complete their course each year and go out into the world as independent citizens. They go off from the terrible atmosphere of camp life and earn their own living and become valuable citizens in another country. This is a splendid story.

I have had the privilege of visiting some of these centres, including the only one for girls, at Ramallah, where the principal, Mrs. Mufti, is doing a marvellous job for Arab girls in an area not favourably disposed towards the education of women. This centre, built with money partly from World Refugee Year money, partly from Great Britain and partly from the United States of America, is now very successful. I have seen other centres in Kalendia, near Jerusalem, in Gaza and at Siblin. These centres are the biggest contribution that the United Nations have made to the Arab problem. But there is a threat to these centres if the funds which are being contributed to U.N.R.W.A. do not meet up with the budget required. If economies have to be made, presumably they will not be made in relief of food and clothing but in cutting down on this type of training. This would be a tragedy because this is one really constructive effort that is being made through the United Nations to solve the problem. I hope, therefore, that no Government, neither ours nor any other, will let this happen, because it would be a major tragedy.

It is to help the trainees, both in these centres and in the training centres at Hong Kong, that money is to be given during the coming Appeal Week to bursaries for students, and these bursaries will be called the Astor Bursaries, in memory of Lord Astor. I hope that these bursaries, which cost£360 each, will be given by many people in the country, and that the appeal, which it is hoped will raise£40,000 for this purpose, will be successful.

My Lords, I have tried to give an account of the present position of the refugee problem in 1966. Some of what I have had to say is, I think, very encouraging, but some deeply disturbing and distressing to all of us who are fortunate enough to live in pleasant places. The challenge to help comes with great force I shall never forget the response which the British people made to the World Refugee Year Appeal—£9,250,000—and the bulk of it in small coins. It was the response of each individual which raised those many millions. To-day, this appeal is on a smaller scale, but it has the same personal appeal to the conscience of each one of us to help. I hope that the fact of a debate in your Lordships' House, and also a discussion on the Adjournment in the House of Commons on Tuesday, will help to give a lead to the European Appeal which begins on Monday. I beg to move for Papers.

3.38 p.m.


My Lords, I am sure that we should all wish to congratulate the noble Baroness, Lady Elliot of Harwood, upon the initiative she has taken in tabling this timely Motion. We must all admire, too, the constructive, informed and stimulating way in which she has moved it. The value of this debate, as I think the noble Lady will agree, will be measured by the degree to which it makes a contribution in stimulating public interest in, and public support for, the general effort to help the refugee problem and, in particular, for the impending European Campaign for World Refugees. I am sure that by the way in which the noble Lady has initiated this debate she, at any rate, will have played a notable part in ensuring its success. I believe, too, that the whole House would like to be associated with the the most warm, kindly and understanding words which the noble Baroness used about Lord Astor. It was indeed a tragedy that his life should have been cut short when he was making this special contribution to the cause of the refugees. I suppose it was a double tragedy, in so far as it might be said that he was also achieving a special personal satisfaction in being able to realise himself in this way.

Looking through the list of noble Lords and noble Baronesses who are to take part in this debate this afternoon, I also feel, very humbly, that we have a good deal to be proud about in the number of public-spirited people in this country who have, in their different ways, made a contribution in these various voluntary movements. Lest it should be thought that I am trying to claim that all virtue is to be found in this House, I would mention the Adjournment debate which was initiated in another place by the honourable Member for Gates head West, which served to remind us that there, too, there are many who make a contribution outside of Party political work to such causes as this.

I feel that at times—recently there have been particular times—many of us tend to be pessimistic about human behaviour and human prospects in the modern world. It is often said that there is an insensitivity of feeling in contemporary society, and a blunting of the national conscience which was unknown in the years gone by. And yet if one looks at the extraordinary development in the post-war world of these voluntary societies to which the noble Baroness has referred, and in which she has played such a part, devoted to the relief of hunger and suffering in other lands, and if one reflects upon the theme of "One people" which Westminster Abbey, in its nine hundredth anniversary celebrations has developed with such conspicuous success, I think one can rightly have some optimism for believing the best of human nature and that one is allowed on occasions to be a little more optimistic than sometimes we may feel.

Without wishing to strike a note of undue complacency, I think one can fairly claim that Britain's contribution over the years towards a solution of the refugee problems has not been without merit. We are an overcrowded island. There are not the vast spaces here in which we can assimilate immigrants but, nevertheless, we did admit to this country in the 1930s some 100,000 refugees from Nazi persecution. Since the Second World War we have received into this country more than 250,000 refugees.

The noble Baroness has said that the problem of the European refugees has virtually been solved. Yet if I may be allowed to think back, I recall the long weeks, and indeed months, in which, as one of the British United Nations delegation, I sat on the United Nations Committee, with Mrs. Roosevelt on one side and Mr. Vyshinsky on the other, together with some 20 or 30 other delegates and we tried to fashion a constitution for the International Refugee Organisation. Listening, day after day, to all the arguments and counter-arguments about whether the nearly 2 million people who had been uprooted during the six years of war should be enabled to go to other lands and start new lives, or whether they should be compelled to go back to the territories from which they had come, it seemed sometimes that the problem was almost insurmountable.

I visited all the refugee camps in Europe during the terrible European winter of 1947, and I learnt a good deal about the tenacity of human beings when human survival is at stake. I began to learn, too, if I may say so, that in this controversy between the Communist and the non-Communist world truth is many-sided; and that is a thought which I feel might sometimes be applied when discussing the refugee situation in the Middle East.

Suffice it to say, as the noble Baroness has already indicated, that as the result of the work of the International Refugee Organisation which was eventually established more than 1 million displaced persons were found new homes throughout the world, and 73,000 were provided with rations and enabled to return to their homelands. Altogether, over 1,600,000people were helped in that period from 1946 to 1952. Of those who remained—and, as the noble Baroness has said, most of them were especially difficult problem cases—almost all ultimately were settled as the result of the sterling work, to which she contributed so much during the World Refugee Year of 1959 to 1960.

After the convulsion of the Second World War which created this enormous problem of displaced persons, there were many who hoped that, once the European camps had been cleared, we could hope for an end to the wretched intolerance and persecution which had uprooted people in this way. Indeed, I suppose that many of us fought precisely for this cause: that we should achieve a world in which it was unnecessary to flee from the land in which one was born. However, our hopes have not been realised, and after Europe the problem has become intensified in Asia and has, unhappily, arisen in Africa.

In December, 1949, the United Nations General Assembly recognised the continued responsibility of the United Nations for the international protection of refugees which would persist after the contemplated termination of the International Refugee Organisation, and they decided to appoint a United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees. I, too, should like to join in the tribute which the noble Baroness has paid to the successive holders of that high office. As the House will know, the High Commissioner is elected by, and is responsible to, the General Assembly. His assistance programme is administered by an executive committee representative of some thirty nations with a wide geographical basis from many States which have demonstrated an interest in and a devotion to the solution of the refugee problem. The work of the High Commissioner, of course, is humanitarian, social and nonpolitical. Those within his mandate are persons who—and I quote from the words used: owing to a well-founded fear of persecution for reasons of race, religion, nationality or political opinion, are outside their country of origin and who cannot or do not wish to avail themselves of the protection of that country. The High Commissioner's competence, however, does not extend to the Arab refugees from Palestine, who are the concern, as the noble Baroness has said, of the United Nations Relief and Works Agency for Palestine Refugees. My noble friend Lady Phillips will have more to say later in this debate about the work of this organisation.

In the years 1959 to 1966, Her Majesty's Government's voluntary contribution to the High Commissioner's assistance programme has amounted to £952,000. This is the second largest contribution after that of the United States. In 1965, however, 57 Governments, about half the total membership of the United Nations, made contributions of one kind or another. We have from this country, as a Government, also made contributions to help deal with the special problems which confronted the High Commissioner with Hungarian and Algerian refugees. The administrative expenses of the High Commissioner's office are financed separately from this assistance programme out of the regular budget of the United Nations of which, I may say, the United Kingdom's assessed share is the third largest, after the United States and the Soviet Union.

The noble Baroness, Lady Elliot of Harwood, very reasonably, did not press unduly the plea for an additional contribution from the United Kingdom Government to the work of this European campaign. I only wish that I were able to announce that we are able to make a specific contribution to this particular campaign. However, we have increased our contribution to the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees by£20,000 this year, in view of the special effort which is being made for refugees, and this, as I think the noble Baroness has said, will bring our contribution for the year to£120,000. If the economic situation had enabled us, I am sure the present Government would have been very glad to do more in view of the great need that there is in different parts of the world. Although we are not able to channel additional funds through this campaign of voluntary organisations, we do, as a Government, give it our warmest support and practical encouragement. Three hunderd thousand leaflets supporting the campaign have been printed at Government expense. Eighty thousand posters have been printed and distributed through the C.O.I., the Department of Education and Science and, of course, through the voluntary organisations.

Representatives of Her Majesty's Government will be taking part, together with leaders of other Parties, in the opening ceremony of the campaign next week, and on U.N. day my noble friend Lord Caradon will be making a broadcast in support of the campaign. I understand that over this Palace next week we shall be flying, for the second time in our history, the United Nations flag.

Because the fund-raising will be a cooperative effort of voluntary organisations, I do not think we should take it for granted, in view of the figures which the noble Lady has given of the results of voluntary efforts hitherto, that the money provided will be insignificant. The World Refugee Year realised£33 million, of which over one quarter, or£9 million, as has been said, was collected in this country—an absolutely remarkable effort. I suppose we cannot expect as much in the one Week as we succeeded in collecting in the Year, but provided we all seize the opportunities that are open to us to help in our individual ways, there is no reason why Britain again should not make a really substantial financial contribution.

The noble Lady indicated some of the other areas of the world outside Europe to which we have to turn now with assistance, and I have no doubt that during the course of the debate this afternoon we shall range very widely indeed. I have already referred to Europe and the work that has been done there to resettle those left in the post-war camps. Something like 10,000 people a year still find their way into Western Europe and, after appropriate interrogation, are found to conform to the definition that I have already referred to, as requiring protection by the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees. But the most serious problems are now to be found in other parts of the world. My noble friend Lady Phillips will be saying something about the very special problem in the Middle East, and I believe there are others on both sides of the House who will wish to make their own contribution out of personal experience about the difficulties of that area.

However, there are other areas of the world to be considered. In the comparatively tiny space of Hong Kong we have now one million Chinese persons who have entered since 1950. The immigrants there now constitute one-third of the population. These, however, are treated in Hong Kong as immigrants and are absorbed into the community. The Hong Kong authorities have accepted responsibility for the heavy burden of providing for their employment, housing and welfare with the minimum of outside help. It has been estimated that about one-third of the total Hong Kong budget now goes to meet the needs of these immigrants. The United Nations High Commissioner has no responsibility for these people who entered the Colony, although under his Good Offices Programme he channels certain financial aid for the Chinese refugees to the Hong Kong Government.

Probably one of the most serious and unhappy developments of the post-war world has been the new problems which have arisen in the continent of Africa. Some 700,000 people in that part of the world, chiefly in the area south of the Sahara, are believed to have fled from their home territories. The gravity of the position can be understood when one realises that the High Commissioner is now devoting one-half of his total current assistance programme to the African problem. The countries which have accepted these people are already grappling with other immense difficulties arising from the undeveloped state of their economies, which, I suppose, is a euphemistic way of saying that they are grappling with the many difficulties arising from primitive poverty.

Some indication of the complex character of the movements that have taken place in Africa can be seen from an analysis of some of the figures which the noble Lady has already mentioned. They show, for example, that some 40,000 Sudanese are now to be found in North-East Congo, whereas 27,000 Congolese are now endeavouring to resettle themselves in Burundi. There are 3,000 Burundi in Rwanda, whilst 70,000 Rwandese are now in Uganda. In the past twelve months or so there has been an increase of about 80,000 in the number of African refugees for which the High Commissioner accepts some responsibility. Many more Africans have fled from their homes in fear of persecution, but because they remain in some other part of their homeland, probably in another tribal area, they are not under the mandate of the High Commissioner. But all these people require help of some kind.

The High Commissioner may become involved in a refugee situation only when the Government of the receiving country requests his assistance. When this happens the first priority is usually emergency relief in the form of food, clothing, shelter and medical supplies. The High Commissioner generally gives some of the money required at this stage, but his role is primarily to co-ordinate the assistance from voluntary agencies and such U.N. bodies as the Food and Agriculture Organisation and the International Labour Organisation. If, as sometimes happens, the situation quietens and some refugees decide to return to their homeland, again the High Commissioner is able to help in making arrangements for their repatriation.

Where the refugees decide to remain, or have no option but to remain, in the country of asylum, then the assistance they need and which they receive through the work of the High Commissioner and the voluntary agencies takes the shape of training for new trades to enable them to start a new life. Schemes for agricultural resettlement are being worked out by the voluntary agencies and by the U.N. bodies concerned, together with the host Government which makes suitable land available. The general policy is for the High Commissioner to play a diminishing part once the refugee has been placed on the road towards a new life.

The noble Lady mentioned recent developments in Nigeria, and I have no doubt noble Lords may be expecting me to make mention of the situation in that country, whose recent internal troubles we have watched with sympathy and anxiety. The problem there, however, differs in a particular and substantial way from the general problem which is the subject of this debate, in that the refugees in Nigeria are all within their own homeland. Their welfare and their rehabilitation, therefore, is primarily a domestic problem for the Nigerian authorities and one in which other Governments can participate only at the express request of the Nigerian Government. No such request has yet been received by the British Government, but I think I need only state that if we were to get a request for help from the Nigerian authorities it would receive sympathetic consideration.

Enough has been said by me, and no doubt much more will be said more vividly by others, to indicate the scope and depth of the human problem which confronts our world. I was greatly stirred, if I may say so, by the concept which the noble Lord, Lord Sandford, put forward in the 1964 debate on this matter, in which he suggested that we should aim at the creation of international social services which serve the world need in much the same way as our own national services endeavour to meet the needs of those within our own frontiers. I should like to think that this new campaign and the impetus given to it by this debate will take us nearer to that imaginative conception of human co-operation of which the noble Lord spoke.

4.0 p.m.


My Lords, I am very grateful to the noble Lord, Lord Beswick, as we all are, for the whole of his speech. I am particularly grateful to him for giving me an opening for what little I have to say on what will be seen to be a fairly narrow aspect of the whole dreadful problem. I am therefore particularly regretful that I shall be obliged to leave before the end of the debate. I dislike doing it; I disliked its happening when I was on the Government Bench, and I hope that the noble Baroness, Lady Phillips, who winds up the debate for the Government, will not think it a discourtesy: but the last train for Yorkshire, where I have engagements waiting for me, leaves between 6 and 7 and I shall not, I fear, be able to be here for her winding-up speech.

I intervene to speak briefly on a relatively narrow aspect of this problem. It is the aspect which a few years ago, when I last spoke upon it, loomed a great deal larger than it does to-day. That is not altogether, as it might seem, a matter for congratulation. It concerns the European victims of the Nazi era, mainly those from Central and Eastern Europe. The evident importance of their plight has diminished, not so much because it has been dealt with, as we all hoped some years ago; it has diminished in proportion to the monstrous growth of the global problem, an unforeseen phenomenon to which the noble Lord, Lord Beswick, himself referred so movingly a few minutes ago. It has also diminished in the public eye and in fact because many of those who claimed our sympathy in the late 'fifties have since died, alas! uncompensated.

The case of those remaining is therefor liable to pass almost unnoticed. Their claim on our conscience has tended to grow intellectually and humanly stale and almost vanish from our awareness. Their plight is none the less very real, and because I felt that in this great debate, with the enormous canvas we have to cover, possibly no other noble Lord from the Back Benches would refer to them, I determined to remind your Lordships of their continuing despair. My noble friend Lady Elliot of Harwood said, quite rightly, that the problem of the refugee camps in Europe was virtually ended; and indeed that is something upon which we can congratulate the High Commissioner and his Office. But I think we should still remember that outside the camps there remain others without compensation—that is to say, so far as compensation can exist for those who have suffered in this way.

The figures—and they are the only figures I will quote in this short speech—are that out of 28,000 claims submitted 1,190 have been accepted and 4,010 rejected. This leaves 22,000 pending, but I should point out that many of those rejected remain on appeal, so that the backlog is even more disturbing than the basic figure suggests. What is even worse, I am told, is that the ratio of rejections is increasing. Whereas a few years ago it was two rejections to every successful application for recompense, it is now three to one. Clearly the difficulties of debating this in an English Parliament House is that our influence, if not our interest, is, as it were, at two removes. This is unlikely, I think, to deter your Lordships when a matter of conscience is involved.

The first responsibility lies upon the German Government and has indeed been accepted by the German Government and Parliament; and although good intentions have been depressingly frustrated, as I shall explain, I wish to pay a tribute to the attitude which the German Parliament has taken on these matters. After the responsibilities of the German Government comes the responsibility of the High Commissioner for Refugees. I should refer, I think, also to the high opinion which Prince Sadruddin Aga Khan has won for himself, both from the refugees themselves and from the voluntary organisations. He has been active and insistent in his approaches to the German Government, and he is spoken of in the same respectful terms as the remarkable Dr. Lindt who was his predecessor during those earlier years when I was one of those who laboured modestly on behalf of these distressed and nearly abandoned people. It is largely due to the efforts of Prince Sadruddin that lately the German Government has offered to the United Nations High Commission a new fund of 3½million D.M.—that is to say, approximately£312,500.

But I should emphasise that this new fund is intended for applicants who, for one reason or another, and never through their own fault, do not come into the categories accepted under the law as a responsibility of the German Government. For instance, the claims of those who suffered permanent injury as a result of work in forced labour camps are rejected on the grounds that forced labour is a war-time measure recognised by international convention. Those who served in resistance movements are completely excluded from benefit or compensation, and their exclusion is so rigid that none of the agencies involved have even thought it worth pressing their claim. They are treated as having been in the armed forces and suffered, as it were, war injuries. This seems to me to be totally illogical, since the penalties imposed upon them when caught as members of an underground movement were far more inhumane than those accorded to bona fide prisoners of war, and they were not regarded, I think I am right in saying, as being under the protection of the Geneva Convention.

Others excluded from benefit under German law are those who missed the date-line of the 31st March, 1962; that is, those who failed to set their names on a list in the High Commissioner's Office by that date. They may have failed for a variety of reasons beyond their control, and they include such people as those who have escaped from behind the Iron Curtain in the last four-and-a-half years. The German law of compensation is, by definition, extended only to those living in the Free World. Also excluded are those who suffered less than 25 per cent. permanent damage of their health. Those received nothing at all. Yet it must be clear that 25 per cent. damage of health at the age of 20 years may become very much more than 25 per cent. in the natural ageing of the human being.

What seems another unjust and serious discrimination is that no claim of a national persecutee can be inherited unless there is a medical certificate stating that death is attributable to injuries to body or health caused by ill-treatment under the Nazi régime, and this certificate must be obtained from a "Amtsoder Vertrauensarzt". That is the German phrase, and I believe—I have tried to find the precise meaning of this—it signifies "directly-employed State doctor", not simply under the Health Services as we have, but a member of a group of doctors, few in number, overworked and therefore difficult to approach and even difficult of access.

Moreover, as I have seen in my own experience on behalf of disablement claims for British Legion members, it is hard indeed, even in our own country, with the best will in the world to make a successful claim for injuries sustained in the World War, but perhaps becoming damagingly evident only some years later. It also seems unreasonable that when cases which have remained unsettled for twenty years have been interrupted by the death of the claimant, the compensation, where recognised and awarded, cannot be passed on to the heirs of the deceased. There are other restricting interpretations in the application of this law.

I realise that in what I have said so far my tone may seem to be grudging and ungenerous to those German members of Parliament who made powerful and dedicated efforts to place this legislation on the German Statute Book. What distresses me is that the good will and the determination of the German Parliament itself expressed in that Parliament should have been frustrated so often in the application of the law they made. The figures I quoted at the beginning of this speech bear witness to this frustration. It is a kind of frustration well enough known in any Parliamentary democracy. It is the cold hand of the Ministry of Finance, or in our case the Treasury, concerned that when a principle involving a payment is established its application must cost the Treasury the absolute minimum Although these conscientious civil servants may see it as their inherent duty, it often takes the form of human injustice. This injustice is particularly deplorable when it concerns individuals who are by definition, by status, by circumstance, almost helpless in themselves. They therefore need sympathy and intervention from those better placed than themselves.

I hope that, if I have succeeded in winning the sympathy of your Lordships' House in these few words, the Government will take it that the House would wish them to give practical recognition to those who were our comrades in adversity and in the struggle during the war years. This practical recognition could take two main forms. Her Majesty's Government might use their diplomatic influence with the German Government to see that their own laws are carried out with more generosity, a generosity in keeping with the intention of the Members of the Bundehaus towards nationalities other than their own. The Government might also feel inclined to assign some portion of what it gives to the distressed to this section of the distressed who only too often are forgotten and abandoned.

4.12 p.m.


My Lords, I should like from these Benches also to thank the noble Baroness for her initiative in again bringing (his subject before us. It is quite true that it has been debated frequently, and not so long ago, in this House, and that during this year we have had kindred subjects of world need brought before us, and yet the fact remains that the refugees are still there. Refugees by their very nature have no Press; they make no history; they create no revolutions, and I suppose that after the first immediate spasmodic interest in them has died down they are forgotten and have to work out their own lives in silence. Yet the initial needs which they have are not only the initial needs of great poverty, which no doubt exists elsewhere in a large measure; there is a need which they have to face without the kind of reinforcements which other people have. They have no homeland behind them. They have no national pride to support them. They have nothing to stand on at all, except the hospitality or compassion of other people. Therefore, I think we must constantly bring them before the mind of the public.

There is another obvious aspect which also has been referred to in this debate to-day: that the general public are not aware of the degree to which this refugee problem still exists in the world. They were familiar with, and they made a fine response to, World Refugee Year, in the hope that that would, by one major effort, at least break the back of the whole problem, as indeed it did for one particular section of the refugees. They are not aware of what has happened since. It is a rather sad commentary to think that the High Commission for Refugees was set up fifteen years ago, apparently as a temporary undertaking. Its mandate has had to be extended on three different occasions, and the problems that it faced are still with it, and in as large a measure as hitherto.

No doubt in time the world will become stabilised and the refugee problem will sink to something measurable, but at the moment it is clearly an indication of the revolutionary phase through which the world is now going. It is not likely to cease overnight. Therefore, I think we should be wrong if we were to let anybody suppose that, although this is a problem which we seek to eradicate at the first possible moment, it is necessarily one which is only a temporary phenomenon, which requires only temporary measures to meet it.

Reference has already been made to the achievements of the High Commission, to Government help, to the immense aid of the voluntary agencies and others. I think that one of the most reassuring things about the Commission is that, in less than the fifteen years of its life, it has for the undertaking which it has sponsored been able to evoke from Governments and the countries concerned more than half the total figure raised for relief. To its own 43 per cent., 57 per cent. has been called out in co-operation. This is precisely what we should hope would happen. Yet every year it seems that it has to set its own target higher; and every year, at least lately, the amount raised falls below the target. It did last year, and although it is setting its target considerably higher this year, how can it be assured that it will reach that target when it has fallen short before? Will it look to the Governments for their own voluntary giving, or will it look to the voluntary bodies for some special effort on their part?

I think that this balance between what States can give and what might be rightly expected of other people, private people, private bodies and organisations and individuals, is something which has to be constantly kept under review. Governments have increased their contributions, and indeed I am heartened to note that our own has. I do not know at the moment whether I am going to ask the noble Lord, Lord Beswick, to increase it further on behalf of the Government. I should like to do so, but at least I should like to say that in the process of stimulating help the High Commission has done something else for humanity. It has helped to build up a strong sense of international solidarity between peoples which, if you like, is a by-product, but which itself is a great contribution to our own age. This is really bringing us to the stage where we must question whether aid to the refugee, like aid to the developing countries, is a matter of charity and voluntary giving only, or whether it is more and more a matter of an obligation upon member States belonging to one another.

Might I refer in terms of this responsibility, as other speakers have done, to the particular problems and difficulties of Africa, and particularly Africa South of the Sahara. We have already had drawn to our notice the peculiar intensity of the problem there, and this intricate movement of population from one State to another. To think of refugees from Burundi going to Rwanda, and refugees from Rwanda going to Burundi; to think of refugees in vast numbers going out of the Congo, and even larger numbers of refugees coming from neighbouring countries into the Congo: this seems to illustrate, among other things, the peculiar kind of chequer-board of the African political situation to-day, which we cannot wholly fasten on the young States that are now learning to live on their own.

To some extent, I suppose that these movements of refugees within Africa are tribal movements, and perhaps they have to some extent been produced by the map of Africa which was drawn up in colonial days, at a time when the Colonial Power was able to hold together different tribal units in comparative peace. Problems were then under the surface, and they have emerged only since that colonial pressure was removed and the country has come to inde- pendence. To some extent therefore, Europe as a whole has a peculiar responsibility for the refugee problem in Africa.

Then, as has been pointed out, there is a special reason for our appealing for them. So far as we can judge, the host countries in Africa which have received these refugees in very large numbers have done so with good will. They have, I suppose, land at their disposal which perhaps other parts of the world have not got, and there are no great cultural problems involved in moving people from one part of Africa to another—certainly not so great, at any rate, as in moving refugees from Europe to other parts of the world. Nonetheless, as the noble Lord, Lord Beswick, has already stressed, the receiving countries are themselves still desperately poor, still only just growing up, and have not the resources to meet even the immediate needs of these large numbers of refugees who are coming into their countries, let alone to integrate them into their life, unless this immediate response comes to them from outside. There is in fact a very special reason for our commending an appeal which is going to take up half the total funds at the disposal of the High Commission during this coming year.

I should like briefly, since reference has been made to it already, to speak not so much of Governments but of the voluntary bodies and individuals which have all along produced so much energy and inspiration for this work. We can perhaps come to take these agencies a little for granted. They have been on the job, one way or another and in an increasing way, since the end of the war. It is not easy, in the midst of a great number of other public appeals, continually to be drawing people back to an appeal which they hoped was finished a few years ago. It requires many men and women of great commitment to carry on this work. The handling of the problem itself, in dealing with individual refugees as human beings, requires a quality of human nature which can come only from a voluntary giving of oneself. We owe a great debt to the voluntary bodies for doing this. Some of the undertakings, though small, indicate a high degree of inspiration and enterprise. I recall that within half a dozen miles of the site of the Battle of Hastings, whose commemoration has been so prolonged during this year, there is a small community growing up which during this year has taken a new step forward and which draws into its community young refugees from Europe, Tibet, the Middle East and Africa. It will obviously face new problems as they grow up, to know where their future lies, but it is creating something of an international community for them there on the spot.

The churches, which are themselves committed to help especially in the Refugee Week starting within a few days' time, will be bringing to it an experience which goes very far back throughout a very long period of producing aid, and they have commended part of what they have raised to specific refugee projects. They made, like others, a very special effort in Refugee Year. They are going to make a very special effort now, in company with other churches in Europe, for this big target which they are seeking to raise. I think they would say that, with all the will in the world, the amount which voluntary bodies can hope to achieve is limited. To start with, they would claim that this is part of a much bigger problem: to bring to the consciences of the people in this country the size of the world problem, the contrast of comparative affluence with poverty. That far wider picture must be included in a specific approach, such as that of a refugee community. One cannot do one and leave out the other.

At present the British Council of Churches is engaged in a long planning campaign for the next year more directly in connection with world poverty. That, of course, is not dissociated from this problem, since our hope is that refugees would be integrated and not merely housed when they come to rest in a country. They will do all they can to foster this particular appeal, but I think they would stress that, however much they can do, the one thing which would undo or set back the efforts which are being put into this whole field of aid by the voluntary agencies would be a slight suspicion that the more they did the less would Governments as a whole feel that they needed to accept responsibility for increasing their own share, although Governments have come more into this matter. If it were supposed that the contribution made officially by Governments was a static figure even when the problem itself was not static, then in the long run this would diminish and even destroy the impetus which the voluntary bodies themselves have imparted to this whole field of human aid and compassion.

4.26 p.m.


My Lords, may I, in the first place, congratulate the noble Baroness on once more being successful in bringing this matter before the House; and, secondly, may I apologise to my noble friend Lady Phillips for the fact that I have to leave early, owing to a longstanding engagement. I consider that these debates on refugees which are held here, and also in another place of course, are very important because they enable us to focus attention, and indeed the attention of the world, on the plight of a minority of helpless, unhappy, homeless people—a minority, thank Heavens! of the human race—who have been deliberately deprived of their homes. Unhappily, the aggressive impulses of man are such that no sooner have we finished one debate than we find that new refugee settlements are being set up in some part of the world. Indeed, only last night we saw on television a miserable, unhappy little procession of women and children in Vietnam who were being taken to establish yet another refugee settlement. I must confess that I felt it reflected badly on our Western civilisation.

Because of all this, there may be a tendency for us to dwell on the most recent camps in order at least, perhaps, to keep us all well informed, but I think it is a mistake to believe that the longstanding refugee problem necessarily resolves itself. We were all so happy to hear from the noble Lady, when she gave us the figures for Europe, that camps which only a short while ago held many thousands of people have diminished in size. In some cases, happily, this is the case, and refugees are being assimilated again into their own country or in another country which feels kindly disposed towards them. Nevertheless, there are some—and I propose to deal with what I consider is the most outstanding—who have not had their problem resolved. I should like to comment on the position of the Palestine refugees who, for various reasons, tend to be overlooked in Parliamentary debates and I am pleased to hear that my noble friend Lady Phillips is to raise the matter this evening. Although in Europe the numbers have diminished, I would remind the House that the figure for Palestine in 1948 was under two million and has now almost reached the two million mark.

It was in 1948, nearly twenty years ago, that the United Nations General Assembly passed a resolution in favour of the Arab refugees from Palestine who were encamped in Jordan, the Lebanon and the Gaza strip. This group of destitute refugees had no recourse to help other than from international resources. At that time it was very difficult to recruit voluntary agencies throughout the world to make contributions, and this group of Arabs had to rely solely on international resources. Now, eighteen years afterwards, the number under the responsibility of the United Nations is estimated at approximately 1,280,000. Of these, 250,000 are children, who know of no other life than that of a refugee, and the increasing number of children of school age creates a pressing need for education and vocational training. I am glad that the noble Baroness has told the House something of what is being done for them. These are the only camps that I know personally, having visited them.

On the last occasion when we debated this question, I raised the matter of medical treatment, and went into it in some detail. I was very pleased to learn that our debate here was carefully followed in the Near East; in fact, the director of the medical services of these camps, who was in the Lebanon at the time, came over here and I saw him. He came to this House and we were able to discuss in detail the medical services in the Arab camps. This bears out how U.N.R.W.A. is doing its best, with limited funds and personnel, to help the refugees. Of course, we can be kept up to date and judge of the effectiveness of this work only by studying the very useful reports of U.N.R.W.A. I am sure that, just as I have criticised U.N.R.W.A.—I hope constructively—in the past, they would not think that this House had performed its duty if we all got up one after another and praised all these institutions and then went home.

I think that we should analyse the reports carefully. We should realise that nearly 1,500,000 people have been living in the Arab refugee camps for eighteen years and, therefore, if we are to help them we must analyse in some detail their lives and the services provided. My only criticism of the U.N.R.W.A. reports is that they tend to present an overall optimistic picture, calculated, I feel, to induce complacency. But if we are to judge from the frontier incidents in the Near East—and I see in the paper to-day that there were more yesterday—it is clear that any complacency on our part is unwarranted. While mud huts have replaced the tents, the inadequate sanitary accommodation, the dirt and dust, the high incidence of gastro-enteritis among the children, are only some of the demoralising factors of refugee life among these people.

While, as we have heard, gifted child-yen, quite understandably, find little difficulty among the Arab refugees, as gifted children in any country in the world, in any society in the world, find no difficulty at all in securing training and being accepted somewhere, I am surprised that after nearly twenty years there is a shortage of preparatory school teachers. I am now thinking of the ordinary small child in these camps. It appears that a refugee population experiences a brain-drain. But may I ask this practical question—and I hope that I shall hear from those who are working in the field of education: Why cannot the pupil teacher used in our own schools some years ago be used to teach tiny children to read and write?

In U.N.R.W.A.'s reports we are frequently shown the most delightful looking pictures of adolescent girls learning how to handle the limited ingredients used for cooking purposes in the Arab world, where the number of dishes is very small. Why cannot more of these be used to convey their elementary knowledge of "the three R's" to the five-to-eight year olds? Why is it that there is a curious concentration on the domestic arts? Although some of these girls may move house, it is a little difficult to exercise these arts which the people of U.N.R.W.A. are so very anxious to impart, if they have to stay in a mud hut.

There are also pictures in U.N.R.W.A. publications of groups of children using one book. When I visited the camps ten years ago what struck me forcibly was the number of children looking at one book. Indeed, there were some children standing at the wrong end of the book and trying to look at it upside down, because, I was told, the number of these elementary books was so limited. I am not asking here for a supply of advanced educational books, but I should have thought that after nearly twenty years it would be possible to have a supply of the simplest and cheapest books for elementary education. That is all I have to say on what I call the domestic aspect of the camps, but I hope that those who are interested in this matter will be able to let us know whether there has been some move forward in this direction.

While we have sought to ameliorate conditions in these camps, one is inclined to ask: how far have we succeeded in healing the wound? Have we, in the case of the Palestine refugees, succeeded only in putting a dressing on a sore place? From the frequency of the frontier incidents—and, as I have just said, more have been reported to-day—it would seem that there is no indication that the Palestine refugees are prepared to accept indefinitely a refugee status in society. Only this week, on Monday, October 17, Mr. Eshkol, the Prime Minister of Israel, said in Jerusalem that he was ready to sign a non-aggression pact with Syria at once. He said, according to The Times, that if Syria persisted in murder and sabotage in Israel's territory, his Government would invoke the right to self-defence enjoyed by every nation under the United Nations Charter. He said that: Arab attacks during the previous weekend in Jerusalem and the Jordan valley were of sufficient gravity to warrant direct military action against Syria, but it was decided to resort to political action in an attempt to check the worsening Middle East situation. He asserted that: The principles of international justice, the United Nations Charter and the interests of world peace all called for the Security Council to censure Syrian aggression. Surely, this poses a Gilbertian situation, for on December 15, 1965, the General Assembly of the United Nations adopted a resolution on the subject of assistance to the Palestine refugees. They recalled similar resolutions passed in the years 1948, 1949, 1950, 1952, 1953, 1954, 1955, 1957, 1958, 1959, 1961, 1962, 1963 and1965, and noted the annual reports of the Commissioner-General of the United Nations Relief and Works Agency for Palestine Refugees covering the periods 1963 to 1965. The General Assembly noted with deep regret that repatriation or compensation of the refugees, as provided for in Parapragh 11 of General Assembly Resolution 194(iii), has not been effected; and that no substantial progress has been made in the programme endorsed in Paragraph 2 of Resolution 513(vi) for re-integration or resettlement; and that therefore the situation of the refugees continues to be a matter of serious concern.

I indicated just now that all this poses an incongruous situation. It appears that the Prime Minister of Israel considers that world opinion will support him in the United Nations, despite the fact that he and his predecessor over all these years have consistantly flouted those resolutions of the United Nations designed to give the refugees common justice and to maintain international peace. Common justice, my Lords: to return to their homes or to be compensated for them.

We follow the journeyings of statesmen around the world, from this and other countries, ostensibly to maintain peace. It seems to me absolutely remarkable that no diplomatic offensive has been mounted to resolve a situation in the Near East in which all the ingredients for a world conflagration exist. Nobody can say that we have not been warned—and I have no doubt that again among the first victims of a bloody war will be found these unfortunate refugees. My Lords, do not let us in this debate be mealy-mouthed and, while attaching importance to the day-to-day needs of these unhappy people, ignore the root cause of their continuing distress.

4.41 p.m.


My Lords, may I first join with those other noble Lords who have already spoken in expressing thanks to the noble Baroness, Lady Elliot of Harwood, for having brought this subject before us to-day? I am sure that all the British voluntary societies connected with the coming Refugee Week appeal—and that includes the British Red Cross Society, with which I am associated—are most grateful to the noble Baroness for having taken this initiative, and, indeed, to all noble Lords taking part in this debate, for giving the Week and the appeal such a good send-off. We count ourselves most fortunate that the noble Baroness, who has such an outstanding position in the refugee world and who has done so much, not only for the refugees themselves but to bring their case to the attention of the public in this country, should have kindly agreed to act as our spokesman on this occasion.

Several of the earlier speakers have spoken of the magnitude of the refugee problem and of the sufferings of those thousands of unfortunate individuals who, through no fault of their own, have been obliged to leave their homes and take refuge in other countries. It is a tragic picture—none the less tragic because the plight of these people is not due to any natural disaster or to some event outside human control but rather to the actions and policies of Governments and nations: in all too many cases, I fear, the actions and policies of their own Government and their own people. Indeed, as long as this kind of thing can go on it is very difficult to see, as was said by the noble Baroness who has just spoken, when the refugee problem will come to an end. In the meantime, however, it is clearly our duty, in the interests of common humanity and, indeed, for good political as well as moral reasons, to do all we can to help the refugees, to alleviate their sufferings, and all we can to make it possible for them once again to live a normal life and to become useful members of the community.

I do not want to say anything more about the moral issues involved or the obligations which we all have, those of us who are fortunate enough to live in the more prosperous or settled parts of the world, to help our less fortunate fellows. Those points have already been made much more eloquently than I could hope to make them. But I should like to refer to one or two of the practical aspects of the problem as it confronts us at the present time. The primary responsibility for dealing with an influx of refugees or with an emergency of that kind must rest with the Government of the country concerned—the Government of the country across the borders of which the refugees are coming—and, of course, in many cases the Government will be able to rely upon the help and material support of the local voluntary organisations in so far as they may exist.

Hong Kong, which has already been mentioned more than once this afternoon, provides a shining example of a case where a Government, with a certain amount of assistance from outside and with a great deal of help from countless local voluntary organisations, has been able to cope very satisfactorily, on the whole, with the enormous flood of refugees who have come in from mainland China during the last few years. But not many Governments are in the same fortunate position. The great majority of them are quite unable, with their own resources, to deal with an emergency influx of refugees. Many of them lack the necessary trained administrative personnel; they are short of doctors and nurses; their roads and their means of communication are defective; houses and, indeed, food are often in short supply; and, above all, their financial resources are not sufficient to enable them to meet this sudden additional strain. In fact, it is only with outside international assistance—assistance not necessarily confined to money or to material supplies, but including administrative personnel, medical personnel and planners—that such an emergency can be handled.

It was in the growing realisation of this fact that the office of the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees was set up in 1951. Your Lordships have already heard from several other speakers of the invaluable services which this office has provided for refugees during the last fifteen years. It is not for me to elaborate on that, although I should most certainly wish, on my own behalf and on behalf of my society, to add my tribute to the work for refugees which is being done by the present High Commissioner and which has been done by his predecessors ever since 1951. In the first place, the High Commissioner and his office work through the Governments of the countries concerned. They also work in close co-operation with a number of the other United Nations Specialised Agencies, such as the World Health Organisation. But—and, although this point has already been mentioned in the debate, it is one to which I should like to call your Lordships' attention—the High Commissioner also works very closely with voluntary organisations, both international and national ones.

As has already been said this afternoon, these organisations not only provide a great deal of financial support for the United Nations High Commissioner's operations; in many cases they also provide the operational machinery and personnel for putting into effect the schemes which the High Commissioner and his staff have drawn up. For example, when the crisis over the Algerian refugees blew up in 1959, it was the League of Red Cross Societies which was put into operational charge of the whole refugee scheme by the United Nations High Commissioner and the whole operation was, in fact, a joint one between the United Nations High Commissioner and an international voluntary organisation, the League of Red Cross Societies.

I think, as the right reverend Prelate said, that we have every reason to be gratified by the response of the British voluntary organisations to the many appeals which have been made to them for assistance to refugees in recent years. Obviously the extent to which any individual voluntary organisation can help must depend upon its other commitments and upon its normal obligations in this country or overseas. But I am sure your Lordships will agree that there is no doubt but that the voluntary organisations in this country have responded admirably to the many appeals which have been made to them for assistance to the refugee in general. But, as has already been pointed out more than once, all this help costs money, and it costs a great deal of money. To give just two examples: the Algerian operation which I have mentioned cost no less than 90 million Swiss francs, something like£8 million. That was, admittedly, a very large-scale operation; over 200,000 refugees were involved and the whole scheme was in operation for more than three years. But even a much smaller operation, such as the one in which the British Red Cross Society was engaged in Uganda some years ago, is quite expensive.

On that occasion we were asked by the Uganda Red Cross Society, at a time when there was an influx of some 40,000 refugees from Rwanda across the border, whether we could help to supply some medical and administrative personnel to help the local authorities cope with this emergency. I am glad to say that we were able to respond quite quickly and in the end, I think, we had three small medical teams operating in the affected area for several months on end. They did excellent work, mainly among the children and young people, and I think for most of the time they were averaging something like 300-odd patients per day. Eventually the Uganda Government authorities took over the work, but I know that what our people had been able to do during the months of the actual emergency was very greatly appreciated locally. But even that comparatively limited scheme cost the best part of£15,000 to mount. I hope these two figures I have quoted, one for a big operation and one for a small one, will show that if the efforts of the United Nations High Commissioner and of the various voluntary societies are to be continued—and still more if they are to be increased—very considerable funds will be needed, funds not only on a once-for-all basis but on a continuing basis.

My Lords, as has already been explained this afternoon, the funds available come from two sources, one Governmental and the other private, individual contributions channelled, in the great majority of cases, through one of the appropriate national or international voluntary organisations. I was very glad to note what the noble Lord, Lord Berwick, said about the attitude of Her Majesty's Government to the refugee problem and, in particular, to the financial aspects of it. This is not the time to press Her Majesty's Government to increase their contributions, I imagine; but I have no doubt—at least, I hope—that they will bear the refugee case in mind so that, if and when the time comes when we can be a little more liberal in our contribution to these international organisations, the High Commissioner's fund will have a good priority.

However, for the moment I think that what we are concerned with is the public response to the appeal which is to be made to them on behalf of refugees during the Refugee Week. I am sure your Lordships will all agree that this is a good cause; it is one which should appeal to the imagination and human sentiments of everyone in this country. We know from the experience of the World Refugee Year how generous our public can be when their sympathies are aroused, and we have just had what I think is a very striking example of that in the response which has been made by the British public to the appeal launched quite recently for the victims of the Turkish earthquake by the Disaster Emergency Committee. I should explain that that is a Committee which consists of representatives from the main British voluntary societies which are interested in relief overseas. I would remind your Lordships that it was set up very largely on the initiative of Lord Astor and it provides yet another example of the way in which he has helped the cause of relief overseas. But what I want to say is that the response to that appeal has produced to date not less than half a million pounds. I can only hope, as indeed I do hope, that the response to the appeal about to be launched for Refugee Week will be equally generous.

If I may, I will raise just one more point. We have very rightly heard a good deal today about the refugee situation in Africa, about the problem of the Arab refugees and U.N.R.W.A., and the specific difficulties of the residual refugees in Europe, and later in the debate no doubt shall hear more about some other particular parts of the world or particular categories of refugees. But there is one part of the world where I fear that we may be confronted, if we are not already, with an equally serious, if not more serious, refugee problem, and that is Vietnam.

There, in all parts of the country, there are enormous numbers of civilian noncombatant persons who, as a result of hostilities, have been obliged to leave their homes; have been separated from their families and have lost their means of livelihood. They may not be refugees in the strict sense of the term, in that they have not been forced to take refuge outside their own country. They may more correctly be described as displaced persons, and therefore lie outside the mandate of the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees. But all the same, they are human beings suffering great hardship and deserving of every sympathy. How to help in this situation is a major problem bristling with every kind of difficulty, political as well as practical.

Unfortunately, my Lords, the situation will still continue to be very difficult even if, as we all must hope, hostilities were to come to an end in the very near future. The matter is causing a great deal of concern in many quarters, and I know that in particular it is under very active consideration at the moment by the international Red Cross authorities in Geneva. I should have thought that some form of international assistance would be bound to be needed. I would not venture to suggest what form that assistance should take, how it could be offered or when it should be offered. All I would suggest is that the extent of this problem in Vietnam makes it all the more important that we should all make a very generous response to the Refugee Week Appeal.

5.3 p.m.


My Lords, we are greatly indebted to the noble Baroness, Lady Elliot of Harwood, for introducing this Motion at such a very opportune moment—just before the opening of the campaign which commences on the 21st birthday of United Nations. It focuses our attention once again on refugees, and it is a particularly important thing that this should be repeated at regular intervals. Over the last six years the vast upheavals in Asia and Africa, about which we have heard from all quarters, have greatly added to the refugee problem; and I think it is to the credit of the United Nations High Commissioner and his successors in office that they have enlarged the mandate to include all these vast new problems. The Office now has representatives across all five continents.

The special problem to which I should like to draw attention—it has been touched upon already by the noble Baroness—is that of Tibet and the Tibetan refugees. I hope your Lordships will bear with me if I trace the origins of this situation and go into them in some detail. I do so for a particular reason. My father was a survivor of the Young husband expedition to Tibet in 1904. His interest in the peoples and culture of Tibet has greatly stimulated mine, and he has passed on to me a lively sympathy with their sufferings.

The Chinese occupation of Tibet took place in 1950. It was consolidated over about seven or eight years in a relentless and ruthless manner. The very first act of the Chinese Peoples' Republic was to invade Tibet, and it did so unchallenged by the world. The Tibetans were ruthlessly driven from their monastries and shrines, and from their freedom to worship in their own homeland. The Chinese violated every Article in the Charter of Human Rights. They murdered indiscriminately. The uprooted fugitives were driven into the mountains, where they attempted to make their escape, but very many thousands died from exposure and starvation on their journey. Few eye-witnesses have reached these shores, but I have had the great privilege of speaking to one such Tibetan refugee, a lama, only a short time ago. His account of his journey, which took place over six months, in a party which numbered approximately 600 to begin with, is quite remarkable in the annals of refugees. It says a great deal for the courage and tenacity of the Tibetan nation: how they have attempted to escape and how they have kept themselves together and held their heads high. This party was decimated to barely two-score by the time they reached asylum in India and the survivors were reduced in the last extremity to eating the leather on their saddle-bags.

Credit is due to the Indian and the Nepalese Governments for the preparations which they made for the reception of the refugees, and to the International Red Cross, whose actvities have been so well described by the noble Lord, Lord Inchyra. Voluntary agencies have been co-ordinated in both countries under co-ordinating committees in long-range programmes for relief and rehabilitation.

The noble Baroness, Lady Elliot of Harwood, referred to 44,000 Tibetans in India and approximately 7,000 in Nepal. In India particularly the Government took the lead in finding land in the first instance in a suitable climate high in the hills; for it will be remembered that Tibetans cannot sustain life on a plain, or low-lying land. The Indian Government has succeeded in settling over 600 family groups, but of those 44,000, over 18,000 are working in road gangs in very isolated parts of the country. It is their particular needs that I should like to stress. Owing to the very remote parts of the country in which they are working, and the arduous conditions under which they work, many are separated from their children and families. The children are housed in residential schools far away and the parents are unable to reach or visit them except on very rare occasions. Their case, I feel, is especially hard. Although great efforts are being made to find a permanent solution, inevitably it will be some time before there is a satisfactory outcome.

I feel, my Lords, that the presence and influence of His Holiness the Dalai Lama has had a great influence on maintaining the morale of the Tibetan refugees. His dramatic escape thrilled the world when it took place about six or seven years ago. It will be remembered that his cortége, which amounted to a considerable number of people, left Lhasa and went into hiding en route. At a crucial time when they were being pursued by the Chinese, they were concealed by a mist. The Dalai Lama has done a great deal in setting up and stimulating activities for his people, notably Tibetan schools and those activities which go towards preserving the cultural traditions and religious life of the Tibetans in exile. I think that for these the resources of the world community and the voluntary agencies will be especially welcome.

I should like to mention the scattered groups of Tibetan refugees in Nepal. Here, again, the good offices of the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees have been particularly useful. In May and June of this year the High Commissioner's representative carried out a difficult journey on foot, for over three weeks in the mountainous regions of Nepal, with a group of Sherpas, visiting very small and outlying communities of Tibetans to discover the nature and extent of their needs. This was very well worth while, because reports had been reaching the Governments concerned that the problem was much larger than it proved to be. In the event, he discovered that for the most part they were itinerant people and that it would be extremely difficult to devote funds for an operation on any scale.

Finally, I would mention the words of the first United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees, Dr. Van Heuvan Good hart. He said that it was not enough simply to maintain and administer misery, but that we must do something really positive. That is the purpose of this campaign, and I feel sure that all noble Lords who have spoken to-day mean this to the full.

5.12 p.m.


My Lords, I think that when we read the debate to-morrow we shall find that nearly every speaker has begun with a similar sentence—one of appreciation of the noble Baroness, Lady Elliot of Harwood, for having initiated this debate. I should like to assure the noble Lady that, though I am repetitive, there is great personal sincerity in what I say in thanking her. I was pleased that early in her speech she made reference to Lord Astor. His work on behalf of refugees will, I think, live in memory always. I do not want to add to the tributes paid to him, but what is particularly in my mind at this moment is a picture of his memorial service and all those who came from having served in this field and who represented so many whom he had helped. I am pleased that what the noble Lady said about Lord Astor was underlined from this side of the House.

When we look at the problem of refugees, we must first recognise that they are a symbol of the tragic antagonisms which are alive in the world and which sometimes bring despair to those who are hoping for a more harmonious and unified world. We have this extraordinary contradiction. Technically, the earth is becoming a closer unit. We can fly to any part of the world, however distant, in two days. A news-flash in London is read on the other side of the world within minutes. One can see and hear on television someone speaking thousands of miles away at the moment of utterance. We are now appreciating how interdependent economically we all are. The earth is becoming the whole time a smaller and smaller place. Yet we have this contradiction that, as it becomes more unified technically, the antagonisms within it seem to intensify in the same proportions. It is as though the earth were a container of combustible materials, and as it contracts, so the explosiveness of these materials increases.

I am led to say this because at the end of the war we were overwhelmed by the problem of the war refugees, particularly those of the Jewish race, who had escaped what surely must have been the greatest crime in the human record—their destruction by the Nazis. At the same time, tens of thousands of Germans in what is now Poland were transferred to the West. That was the refugee problem. But now we are beginning to realise that the problem is much wider and deeper than the victims of war. We are beginning to see that refugees are the victims of racial antagonisms, of religious antagonisms, of ideological antagonisms and of nationalist antagonisms. Though we are a generation from the last world war, the problem of refugees is constantly with us and is probably as great as it was immediately at the end of the war.

The noble Lady referred to Africa. Here the problems are mostly racial. An example of religious antagonism was the terrible tragedy of the Hindu-Moslem massacres which took place when independence was achieved by India and Pakistan. We have seen ideological antagonisms not only in the attempted revolution in Hungary and in the refugees from China in Hong Kong, but also in Indonesia and, as the noble Lord, Lord Inchyra, has said, in Vietnam. And we find nationalistic antagonism, though combining religious and racial elements, in the problem of the Palestinian refugees.

I want to applaud the Refugee Week which begins almost immediately. I want to applaud all that the voluntary organisations are doing for the refugees. I want to applaud what the International Red Cross are doing and the work of the United Nations, although I had hoped that the aid they were able to give would be much larger. When we have helped all those causes, we have to come back to the basic fact that the problem is a political problem and one of seeking to solve the racial, religious, ideological and national antagonisms from which these armies of refugees come.

I must not deal with too many of these problems, but I want to say a word or two about Africa, particularly Nigeria, and still more about the situation of the Palestinian refugees. Sometimes the argument is urged that the appalling number of refugees in one country and another in Africa—it is almost a recital of the countries of the continent—is due to the fact that the wind of change has blown too strongly and too rapidly. I am certainly not going to minimise the problem, but I think we must look at it in historical perspective. The continent of Africa to-day is passing through a stage similar to that of Europe and America at the end of the eighteenth century, during the nineteenth century and, indeed, right into our twentieth century.

If we look at that period—the emergence of nations; the emergence of democracy; the settlement of the pattern of frontiers—we see that the cruelties and atrocities; the conflicts and the wars; and the human suffering that was in Europe and in America were much larger than the cruelty and suffering which is occurring in the continent of Africa today. When we see the ugly things that are happening in Africa, we must think of them in the terms of what happened in Europe and in America at the time of the French Revolution, the American War of Independence, the American Civil War, and all the cruelties of religious intolerance during that period.

I say that but, while saying it, I do not want for one moment to underestimate the terrible occurrences which are there. They are illustrated in Nigeria. Nigeria is a particular tragedy, because we had all hoped that it would be a model of democratic advance, where the problem of tribes and regions and the different social advance in the South and the more primitive North would be settled in the Federation which was established. Now, in the past few weeks, we have had in the North the appalling occurrence of massacres of Africans who had come from the Eastern region, and the terrible position of the hundreds of thousands of refugees who have had to return to the East, beaten, homeless and hungry.

I think we all appreciate that that basic political problem must be settled in Nigeria itself, but may I just say to the representative of our Government, that I hope the Government will communicate with the Nigerian Government—no doubt they have already done so—expressing our sympathy and concern, and offering our help in any way possible. It may not be possible in a large monetary way but, in the conditions which are now in Eastern Nigeria, technical assistance, reconstruction, housing, engineering and agricultural development would all be of enormous value to the hundreds of thousands of refugees who have to be rehabilitated. May I also say this: that Nigeria is a part of the Commonwealth. I should have liked to see our Government suggesting to the other member States of the Commonwealth that they might offer assistance to Nigeria. Nigeria is a part of Africa. I wish that the Organisation of African Unity were stronger, so that all African Governments might also assist in this way.

I want particularly to discuss the problem of the refugees in Palestine. Last year I had the honour of being the leader of a Parliamentary deputation to Jordan, representing both sides of the House, and we visited the refugee camps. We gave some study to the refugee problem. I think that most of us came back—certainly I did—with greater optimism about the possible solution of that problem than before we went. The camps are sordid, ugly places, without colour and apparently without hope. But two things are happening among the Palestinian refugees which are contributing to a solution of the problem. The first is that the younger refugees are leaving the camps and seeking work in Kuwait, Iraq, Syria and other places. In the camps themselves the training for the young is rather rudimentary and they do not enjoy the rations contributed by the United Nations to the older population. But we visited one wonderful training school organised by a refugee for agricultural and mechanical training, the students of which are able to get good posts wherever they may go. But even with the more rudimentary education of the boys and girls in the camps, the younger generation are increasingly leaving these camps.

On the other side is the fact, which we heard from many Arab representatives, as well as from those in the camps, that if the older generation were given the opportunity to settle in Arab countries, rather than go back to Israel, they would prefer to remain in Arab countries if in remaining there they could have some compensation for what they had suffered when they were evicted from Israel.

I want to put this point quite simply, but very strongly. For eighteen years the United Nations have been spending, year by year, hundreds of thousands of pounds in retaining these refugee camps. At the end of those eighteen years, still despair, and still this constricted life. If the money which has been spent on those camps over the last eighteen years had been used for compensation for the members of those camps this problem could have been solved long ago. I hope that an initiative will now be made to seek a solution of this problem. I know the difficulties. Arab Governments will not recognise Israel; there cannot be conversations between the Governments. For a short time, the noble Lord, Lord Robens of Woldingham, was the speaker in the Labour Shadow Cabinet on foreign affairs. He made one suggestion which I submit to our Government again; if there cannot be talks between the Arab Governments and the Israeli Government about the refugee problem, as well as other problems, the United Nations should ask someone to be a continual go-between in Cairo, Jerusalem, and in the other Arab capitals, patiently seeking a solution of this problem. It is my conviction that if the Palestinian refugee problem can be solved it will make a contribution to the solution of the much bigger problems as well.

I conclude by saying this. We hope that the noble Baroness, Lady Elliot of Harwood, the noble Lord, Lord Inchyra, and others, will have the greatest possible success in Refugce Week. One hopes, also, that this debate will have contributed something towards solving the problems which now brine antagonisms between the peoples of the world and towards bringing a psychological unity among the earth's peoples equivalent to the technical unity towards which we are speeding.

5.33 p.m.


My Lords, I hesitate to intervene because another engagement at 6 o'clock, made long ago, means that I shall not be able to stay for the reply, and I would ask the forgiveness of the noble Baroness, Lady Phillips, and also the noble Baroness, Lady Elliot of Harwood. During our debate the need has become increasingly apparent to distinguish between immediate needs and a future policy. How do we help these refugees immediately, and how do we prepare them to take their place in society at a later date? There has been reference to the camps in Palestine, which I have seen for myself. The noble Baroness, Lady Summer skill, also referred to the problem there, and therefore I should like to pass from Palestine to Tibet to see how the problem is being faced there. I am sure that your Lordships will have been as fascinated, and indeed as moved, as I was by what we have heard from the noble Lord, Lord Sandys, in his interesting account of what happened in Tibet. I should like to take on where he left off.

What is the future of these most remarkable people to whom the noble Lord has referred? It is indeed encouraging to know that people are going out to assist them. The imagination of many young people in this country has been spurred by the tragedy that overtook the Tibetans, and they are fascinated by them as a people. Some go out for short periods, some for longer, to help the Tibetans to build a new life and to start new centres. Two of them are in the Himalayan foothills. They are large communities with perhaps 2,000 or more people in each. Thanks to international aid, the standard of living is better than they used to know in their own country and, what is more, it is higher than the standard of living that many Indians enjoy or, perhaps more accurately, fail to enjoy. Apart from minor businesses, like small handicrafts which employ at most fifty people, these communities are hard pushed to embark upon any large-scale enterprises. This is a pity, because if there is to be self-sufficiency, indeed if there is to be a future, there must be capital investment.

Moreover, hard facts must be faced. The Tibetans are indeed unique; they have almost a sentimental appeal, but they are like the rest of us. If people concentrate too much upon immediate needs, we are apt to sit back and allow them to do just that, and not to concern ourselves with the future. In other words, direct aid, when it is no longer absolutely essential, tends to spoil the refugee's willingness to work and hinders his determination to adapt himself to new conditions. I think that those whose responsibility it is to administer aid, whether it is in Tibet, Palestine or Africa, should realise that unless there is a significant change of emphasis the potential of the refugees will not be realised. I think that certainly applies to the Tibetans. There is a great potential there, and by wise planning it is to be hoped that that potential will be realised.

The Indian Government are pursuing a constructive policy which deserves the support of the voluntary agencies. It is removing the majority of the Tibetans in the Northern hill areas to resettlement areas in the hills of South and Central India. Schemes in these areas are basically agricultural. Each family of five is given seven acres of virgin land. The family is paid for clearing the land, and is then given seed and fertiliser for the first two years' cultivation. In the third year, it is not a gift but a loan, as it is assumed that the farm will shortly be self-sufficient. The Indian Government not only provide the land but, where possible, a house and rations, too. I think this generosity on the part of the Indian Government, even though it is helped by the voluntary agencies, is remarkable when one remembers how few of her own people have such opportunities. It is yet another indication of the concern that India has shown for her Tibetan neighbours.

At the moment there are, I believe, 10,000 Tibetans in five such resettlement areas, and a further camp with an estimated population of 4,000 is on the point of being started. It is hoped that as they develop and become more prosperous, the scattered refugee communities and the small independent groups will be attracted to the rehabilitation areas, and so themselves settle down with their fellow countrymen to a useful life.

It is important that the Government, the voluntary agencies, and the Tibetans themselves, should press ahead as quickly as possible with these expanding resettlement schemes, because the rising generation will not be content to remain with its parents in squalid surroundings, with little chance of work. Many of them have been to really first-class schools, and in those schools they have become accustomed to certain standards. You just cannot expect them to give up those standards and to return home, which very often means living amongst the dirt of the road camps. Of course there are some who are clever, who make their way as teachers and indeed come to the West, but for most there is little or no vocational training and there are few opportunities for them to exercise their ability. Yet this potential of the younger generation is considerable. They could come to the resettlement areas and use their skills in the interests of the community if only there was provision.

As I understand it, the immediate need is for an extension of little cottage industries and an intensification of farming. Of course, this sort of project requires a lot of money and the fact must be faced that refugee problems of this sort are expensive and require long-term planning. It is so easy to get an immediate response for starving children, but it is not always as easy to get people to provide money when it comes to taking the long view, seeking money to capitalise vocational training and workshops so that men may be trained to develop their country and may learn how to be usefully employed. This applies not only to Tibet but to so many parts of the world where there are refugees.

Tibetans have had, for a while, to live on charity. For many of them that time should be over. They now need our help to help themselves. They are ready to do this, provided that they can be given the tools with which to get on with the job.

5.42 p.m.


My Lords, may I also express my congratulations and gratitude to the noble Baroness for having introduced this debate. I propose to confine my brief remarks to the refugee problem in East Africa, of which I have some knowledge, and to draw attention to one lesson which has been learned there and which may be applicable to other areas in which the refugee problem exists.

In East Africa the major inflow of refugees has been into Uganda and Tanzania. In Uganda there are 30,000 refugees from the Congo, 70,000 from Rwanda, and 45,000 from the Southern Sudan, a total of 145,000; while in Tanzania there are 2,000 Congolese refugees, 14,000 from Rwanda and 12,000 from Mozambique, a total of 28,000. All these refugees have left their own countries because of the political and social upheavals to which they have been subjected. No one can say that this number will not increase. Indeed, until conditions become settled, it is likely that there will be a continuing flow of refugees. There are few signs of stability being established and it is possible that not only will the conditions deteriorate but unpredictable explosions of strife will lead to further mass migrations.

The Governments of Uganda and Tanzania have done what they can to relieve the immediate plight of the refugees and have received valuable assistance from the United High Commissioner for Refugees and other United Nations and voluntary agencies. Most of the refugees are absolutely destitute and the humanitarian needs are both urgent and extensive. The Governments have offered land and facilities to settle the refugees and it is hoped that they can be integrated into the life of the country of asylum. Some of these schemes are being carried out with success, but there is a strong psychological barrier which often prevents these people from taking full advantage of the facilities offered. This is the deep-seated feeling that things in their own countries will return to normal and that one day they will be able to go back to their own homes and their old way of life. This wishful thinking is unrealistic, for while the host Governments are ready to promote voluntary repatriation where possible, it is necessary for them to be very cautious because of the political implications.

Settlement schemes, however well planned, depend for their success on the co-operation of those who are to be settled, and such co-operation can never be wholehearted when the settlers hopefully look over their shoulders hankering after a return to the past. This attitude, of course, is natural but it is difficult to eradicate. It places emphasis on the need to provide educational services for the children who are more likely to forget the past and become assimilated in their new countries. But the host countries are themselves under strain to find enough places in their schools for their own children, and thus the provision of school facilities for the refugee children produces special problems, the solution of which to a large extent depends on outside aid.

The response by the people of this country to the World Refugee Year was magnificent and indeed remarkable, but I believe it is a fact that year by year the natural disasters seem to evoke more response from the population than do man-made disasters, of which the refugee problem is one. I sincerely hope that Refugee Week will be a very great success and that the Government, as soon as conditions have improved, will increase their rather modest contribution towards this great human problem and drama.

5.47 p.m.


My Lords, my noble friend Lady Elliot of Harwood has told your Lordships of the immense amount of work that has been done for European refugees and in particular for those in Germany. This has been a tremendous achievement and by no means the least part in it, as in other refugee projects, has ben played by the noble Lady herself. But I hope my noble friend will forgive me if I suggest that there is still need among the displaced persons in Germany.

When one is speaking of the hardships of millions, the hardships of hundreds seem insignificant, but no refugee problem is ever solved until the refugees in whatever circumstances they may find themselves stand as much chance in their new country as they would had they been born nationals of that country. This is unfortunately still not the case for many of the former displaced persons in Germany. On paper, the assistance these people need is available. They have established rights, but what many of them need and have not at the moment got is help in using those rights. This help has been given, and given admirably, by the integration counsellors, but there were originally twelve of them and the numbers are now down to three. There is a danger that even the remaining ones will be removed. These integration counsellors help the displaced persons to find the answers to their problems, most of the answers already having been provided but the refugee himself being unable, through language difficulties or difficulty of travelling, to take advantage of them.

As in most refugee problems, the first need of the displaced person is housing. My noble friend Lady Elliot of Harwood has mentioned 500 still in camps in Germany, but there are still a great number of out-of-camp refugees who need help. Most of those waiting for accommodation have large families, for whom there are very few new flats built. As in all housing problems the case of old, single people, especially those who are disabled, is particularly difficult. There is also, I am afraid, a racial stigma about the displaced persons that dissuades landlords from letting rooms to them. The housing problem is particularly difficult in what are known as the "White Circles" in Germany, areas where no welfare housing projects exist and a landlord seems to be able to turn out a displaced person with great ease.

Over the years there have been built by the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees a large number of blocks of flats, and in these blocks, flats are becoming available all the time. The local authorities who control the flats have to give priority to refugee families, but unless there is readily available one that qualifies the flats can be, and in many cases are, let to German families. This is one of the primary needs of the integration counsellor. When a flat is available, he can produce the refugee family who desperately needs it. It should really be the other way round: when there is a refugee family in desperate need, he can often find out where a flat is likely to become available.

This applies not only in housing. There are in Germany nursing homes and old people's homes that it is quite possible for a displaced person who needs it to get into; but to do so he must produce a declaration from his regional insurance office that the costs of his stay there will be taken care of, and this is by no means easy to get. Then, secondly, he has to produce an official doctor's health certificate saying that he needs his stay in that particular home. Often, he has to produce other papers as well. With the language difficulties and difficulties of travelling, in the state they are in, to get these documents, the refugees would not be able, without the integration counsellor, to avail themselves of this sort of help.

There are many other small ways in which integration counsellors help—the getting of old-age pensions; the putting in and fighting of claims for compensation mentioned by my noble friend Lord St. Oswald. In fact their purpose is to overcome the difficulties of a foreigner in a strange land and to help the displaced person to be in the same position as a German national living under the same conditions. They have done marvellous work. Most of them have been provided by the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees, and others by various voluntary bodies; but their numbers have been whittled down and are now to disappear altogether. This must not happen, because, when vast resources have been given to help these particular refugees, it would be a quite false economy to take away the integration counsellors without whom the displaced persons will not be able to take advantage of what is provided for them.

5.54 p.m.


My Lords, I must apologise for not having been here earlier, but a longstanding public engagement prevented it. I should like to begin by adding my tributes to those expressed to the noble Baroness (I expect she is rather tired of listening to such tributes) and to say how much I would back her in hoping that the appeal is going to have more than the hoped-for result and great success. I personally would say that since World Refugee Year a very great thing has happened in the welding together of the various forces which want to help refugees; but I would say, as one who is actively engaged in working for refugees, that the problems of refugees range so widely that each person who has touched on them to-day has perhaps only just rippled the periphery of the whole question.

The appeal that is being made next week is going to be for financial generosity. I believe that what we have to do is to think much wider than financial generosity and appeal for every sort and kind of other generosity. This struck me especially when the noble Lord, Lord Sandys was speaking about Tibet. Recently I had an opportunity of talking with a man who has started very long-term work for Tibet in London. As I was speaking to him—and he has sacrificed everything in order to do this job—he said to me, "Well, of course what I am doing is nothing to what is being done in Denmark", where engineers are being trained. And the generosity of the Danes is that they are training men in English, although it is difficult to do so in Denmark, in order that when they go back to Tibet they can play their full part using the lingua franca of India. This is to-day, I think, the thing we all want to strive for when we are trying to consider refugees. Those of us who are deeply involved in refugees know that it is no good having sporadic interest or seasonal zeal. This question of refugees is one that has to be watched the whole time and handled not only from day to day but more often even than that.

I should like to take a different line from that which has been taken so far to-day because, although I agree with all that has been said, I feel very strongly that we should look into the distance to see what we can do for the children of to-morrow, not merely those homeless and hopeless to-day. In this direction I would raise the vital problem of children who, being born in a country, do not acquire the nationality of the country through birth. The Federal German Government does not accept that the children of refugee parents born in Germany should have German citizenship, and this is a very great tragedy for the child itself.

There is the suggestion that no nation can force its citizenship on any person, but surely that is not a very cogent answer. There are very few countries in which the children born there are not automatically allowed to be citizens of the country, and in this case the children born of refugee parents have to take the nationality of their parents. This means of course, that the child is Stateless, and this situation could go on for generations. It is true that the children of refugee parents may apply for citizenship, but they must prove ten years' residence in the country outside of any camp, and they also have to fulfil a great many other regulations. These are not children who would not want to be citizens; they would very much like to be citizens. They feel a deep humiliation, knowing that the same fate will await their children.

If, in fact, fortune favours them at all, and they can get the necessary sum of money, which varies from person to person, in D.M. from 50 to 500, their first expenditure is always to apply for naturalisation, long before they put down the first deposit on a house or car. But the difficulty for those who have no money is a vicious circle, for they have to struggle to keep body and soul together, and in doing this they obviously have to scrape in order to be able to get the cash to put down for their payment. Since World Refugee Year, and the wonderful result of that Year, the refugees have mostly been taken out of camps and been rehoused in flats, as has already been said. This helps to fulfil the first qualification of residence. But the next hurdle is that they must be able not only to read and write, and qualify in the language, but must produce at the same time the requisite fee.

To produce the fee, savings must be amassed; and in order to do this the Stateless child, who leaves school much earlier than the citizen child, has to do all sorts of not very well paid work. There should of course, in fact, be no difference between getting employment for the Stateless child and the citizen, but naturally there is; and it is often the case that Stateless children who would like to be a teacher, a responsible person in commerce or industry, can never achieve that aim because they are told they must take training, and in order to take training citizenship must be applied for. So, one is very quickly back in "square one". The children who would like to have a nationality are going to be disillusioned and have nothing but a Stateless status, and in consequence are going to be bitter and unhappy and not very worthwhile people.

The tragedy of this is tremendous—I do not mean that the tragedy is greater or less than the other tragedies of which we have heard. But our country has always stood pre-eminent for helping those in distress and untangling the tangles, and I hope that many of us who work in this field may be backed by others, so that there is no weariness in well doing and that, going ahead, we may try to see where the solutions lie. The tragedy in the country in which there are many refugees is that it is generally said by those who work in this field that to be a human being one needs three things: one needs a body, a soul and a passport; and a passport is the most important of the three.

6.1 p.m.


My Lords, we all applaud the idea behind this campaign "Refugees, 1966"; we congratulate the noble Baroness for bringing it before us for debate this afternoon, and we pay our tribute to the late Lord Astor who led us through so many of the previous debates. This is a good way of marking United Nations Day, and I shall be glad to see the flag of the United Nations flying here on Monday. It is good to hear that the Government are making a contribution of, I think,£120,000 this year to this cause; but I am bound to reflect, as I hear that, that that is what my county council spends in a single day. It is good to read in this pamphlet that these eighteen or so organisations in the United Kingdom are committed this year to a programme of£1 million towards helping refugees, but I am bound to recognise that we consume four times that amount each day, in this country, in smoking alone. I say these things just to establish the point that, in spite of what is being done and with due recognition to all those who are working so hard to do it, our contribution to this field is not a tremendous and significant part of the resources which we could devote to it if we had the will to do so.

It is good, too, to read here that 18 nations and 21 organisations in this country are combining together for the great campaign to be launched next week by His Royal Highness Prince Bernhard of the Netherlands. But if I were an 18-year old refugee in the Gaza Strip and I could have the expectation of the whole of this£1 million from this country coming to me and to my one and a quarter million fellow-refugees in the Arab countries around Israel, what would this actually mean? It would mean that the 9d. a day which had been lavished upon me since the day of my birth eighteen years ago and which covered my rations, my schooling and all my health services, would go up to 10d. a day for the next twelve months. That small rise could be achieved only by devoting all the efforts that are expected to come from this country to me and my fellow-refugees there, and nothing whatever to anyone who is a refugee in Bengal, from Tibet, in Vietnam, from the Sudan, Angola, the Congo, Mozambique, or anywhere else in the world.

I say this certainly not to discourage anybody who is organising this appeal or putting good work into it, but to plead for a sense of realism, a realisation that these contributions are an insignificant proportion of what we could contribute if we had the will to; and to impart a note of realism to the other side of it: that these contributions, good as they may be, are not in themselves capable of doing more than scratch the surface of the problem.

I am, I hope, among those Members of your Lordships' House who have, at one time or another, laboured long, and I hope fairly hard, in causes such as this—World Refugee Year, Freedom from Hunger Campaign, the Development Decade, and so on. But I think it is quite unrealistic to believe that what we do in these compaigns can do more than scratch the surface, if we are looking for their immediate practical measurable effect. That is not at all to say that these campaigns do not have tremendous value—I am sure they do—but it is important to recognise that their value is of a different kind. The noble Baroness, Lady Summerskill, made the point, followed by the noble Lord, Lord Brockway, that all the money that has been poured into helping the Palestinian refugee—it is£13½ million per annum for the last eighteen years—has not, so far as I can see, brought a solution to the problem one whit the nearer. All it has secured is a survival. That is certainly worth securing, but we are not getting any nearer a solution.

So I submit, that the real and the main achievement of "Refugees 1966" and similar campaigns, like those that have gone before and that may come later, is not to be measured in terms of the rations that are provided, or the families that are settled, or the houses that are built as a result of the campaign but that the real and the significant achievement of these campaigns—and it is the one being striven for—is the cumulative effect that they have in enlightening the public, sharpening the public conscience and strengthening the public resolve to get something done and achieve a solution where we can. Without this, without the public conscience, without enlightened public opinion and without determination from the public, our democratic Governments are powerless to act.

What I hope this campaign will do is to give them more power to act, for the time is long past when we can go on tinkering with these problems of world refugees and world hunger and all the other problems of the world. It is no longer a matter for protest marches and small pioneering pilot schemes. What are needed now are further major international political decisions, involving national sacrifices of a real order—not just a few cigarettes a week—in the fields of finance, world trade and economic development. These political decisions have to be taken by politicians, and politicians have to have votes to support them and to back their decisions. It is, as I see it, the function of this sort of campaign to provide our politicians with this kind of backing and this sort of support.

As we scan the political horizon, at any rate outside this country, we can see a good many good new things which Europe, and Britain among the countries of Europe, can do and need to decide to do together now. We have to work out, for instance, a fresh pattern for our military alliances and refurbish the development of NATO. We have to grow together in closer ties of political partnership, harmonising E.E.C. and EFTA and so on. We have to engage more closely together in economic development through the Organisation of European Development and the Development Assistance Committees, and we have to embark together on still more technological enterprises, the Concord and so on. But to what purpose is all this? What would be more basic, more worth while, more urgent and indeed, if I may say so, more our bounden Christian duty than to make this our aim: year by year to strive for a world in which there are fewer—fewer not more—than 15 million people without a home to call their own? Let us at least try, as a result of this debate and with the backing of this campaign, to focus our policies and bend our thoughts towards this simple aim.

6.12 p.m.


My Lords, I am very grateful and very honoured to be given the opportunity of winding up the debate to-day. Possibly my colleagues bestowed this honour upon me as I have spent a large part of my working life in voluntary social service, both paid and unpaid; and although I have not worked in the field of international voluntary social service, one could not be housed in the same building as some of my colleagues who are concerned with it without recognising their great loyalty, energy and enthusiasm for these causes.

The debate to-day has been noticeable for one difference from many of the debates in your Lordships' House. Surely to-day it is not the Government that we are appealing to; it is to humanity, or perhaps one might say to the British people. We are therefore all most grateful to the noble Baroness, Lady Elliot of Harwood, for drawing our attention to this problem and, through this House, the attention of the wider public whom we hope will read and take note of what has been said here to-day. She was too modest to mention her own splendid performance in Refugee Year when she led the voluntary organisations to raise the magnificent sum of£9 million. I feel we must again pay great tribute to her, and of course to the late Lord Astor who has been mentioned in the debate so often. I think that I should be safe in saying—and I have to be very careful about this, for your Lordships will remember that I speak not as a social worker, but as a representative of Her Majesty's Government—that the Government substantially agree with all that has been said in the debate to-day apropos the contribution which they would like to make. Noble Lords have been reasonable in not pressing that these contributions should be greater at this point in time, but they have accepted the word of the Minister that this will be in the list of priorities when the time is ripe for consideration again.

I was thinking while this debate was going on of the words which were attributed to the late Albert Schweitzer, "Think occasionally of the suffering of which you spare yourself the sight". If we can awaken the conscience of ordinary people, they will, I believe, be very generous and it seems to me that in a Western democracy we must never speak of the Government and the people but rather of "us"; because if we demand more from Governments we are surely demanding more from the people, so that if they contribute in one way it is as good as contributing in another. Possibly this is where I would slightly part company with the noble Lord, Lord Sandford. Various noble Lords have made reference to the fact that the Government have a fine record in this matter, and I think that it is worth repeating what my noble friend Lord Beswick said, that we have made the second largest contribution. This is something of which we might well be proud.

The note that seems to have run through the debate is a very important one—namely, that, sad to say, it is a continuing problem, and that those people who contributed in World Refugee Year now again must be appealed to because in fact this problem will continue, it seems, for many years to come. I think that it was the noble Lord, Lord Brockway, who used a very excellent description when he said that the refugee is a symbol of the tragic antagonisms existing in the world. He also said that we are in a world which is economically interdependent. I believe we are in a world which is spiritually and emotionally interdependent. It was interesting to me to hear the right reverend Prelate ask: is this charity or is this obligation? I would say straight away—and I hope he will not take this amiss, and I offer this thought in all humility—as a Christian, that this is an obligation. The basic belief of the Christian faith—and we are Christians in this country, despite the fact that not enough people carry out their faith—is that every man is our brother and we are dependent upon him and he upon us. I have not been a refugee; I have been an evacuee, and I can remember how I envisaged those people who were living in their own homes during the war years whilst we were tossed, as it were, from place to place. So it needs very little imagination to realise the situation of the Stateless.

I felt that the noble Baroness, Lady Swan borough, described most graphically and wonderfully the situation of the Stateless child. I only wish that I could give her the direct answer to this problem. She will appreciate that I cannot do so this evening, but I can assure her that note was taken of what she said and that this is something on which we on behalf of the Government will see what influence we can bring to bear.

Lady Elliot of Harwood herself ranged very wide, and of course the subject covers the whole world, but I think it is heartening to recall that she did say that we can now almost consider the whole problem in Europe solved. We can only pray that there is not some further eruption which will again bring hordes of refugees pouring over the borders.

The noble Lord, Lord St. Oswald, asked a particular question, to which I have a reply. He asked about the categories of victims of Nazi persecution and about compensation in relation to the Federal Government. Although our attention is now centred on refugee situations outside Europe, we have not forgotten the question of compensation for victims of Nazi persecution. The Federal German Government has accepted certain obligations in this matter, and has demonstrated a spirit of co-operation towards the achievement of a solution.

The noble Lord, Lord St. Oswald, referred to the discussions which the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees has recently had with the Federal German Government. These discussions are being pursued, and I do not want to say anything at this stage which will complicate the situation. I will simply confirm that Her Majesty's Government hope very much that a full and suitable measure of compensation can be given to those who suffered under one of the most brutal regimes that the world has known. The noble Lord made two excellent and specific suggestions for possible action in this matter. These points will be borne in mind, but I hope he will have some patience, as the discussions are still continuing and we do not wish to do anything which will complicate the situation at this time.

The right reverend Prelate the Bishop of Chichester said that the voluntary bodies had shown in this work energy and inspiration. He mentioned the Churches, and I am happy that he did this because all too often, I think, the Churches have accusations levelled at them. To me the Churches, like government, are not a body but a corporate entity of people, and each Church is only as good as the people who make up its personnel. So the role of the British Council of Churches in this work is one which we all applaud, because we know that they will bring to it the energies which they have brought so often to campaigns of this kind.

I am sorry that the noble Baroness, Lady Summerskill, is not here now, because she dealt with the question of the Arab refugees, as did my noble friend Lord Brockway. I felt, while she was speaking, that the quotation which my noble friend Lord Beswick gave was a very apt one in this context. He said: Truth is a many-sided thing. As noble Lords have stressed, the Arab refugees are a different problem from that of the European refugees, in that the Arabs in question claim the right to return to Israel and the Arab Governments reject any other solution. This means that wholesale resettlement of these refugees in lands where they now live has so far been impossible.

I do not feel it would help the refugees to debate the political aspects of this problem further at this point of time. The United Nations resolution on this question says that they should be offered the alternatives of repatriation or compensation, and, as the noble Baroness, Lady Summerskill, mentioned, Her Majesty's Government have many times voted on resolutions confirming this point. In practice over the years, despite the valiant efforts of the United Nations Conciliation Commission for Palestine, no scheme for offering either repatriation or compensation to the refugees has been evolved which was acceptable to the Governments principally concerned, and none is in sight at present.

Given the delicacy of the negotiations involved in these schemes, we consider that this task has been rightly entrusted by the international community to the United Nations Commission, the members of which are the United States, France and Turkey. We have no wish to usurp the Commission's task, and we can only wish it well and give all the support we can. But I hope that noble Lords will agree with me when I say that there seems no value in criticising the attitude adopted by either side in the dispute about the Arab refugees. We should do better to look at what is actually being done to help them. And here I should like to pay tribute to the work of the Commissioner General of the United Nations Relief and Works Agency for Palestine Arab Refugees and his staff. We consider that Dr. Michelmore is doing an excellent job in very difficult circumstances. This Agency is not merely providing food and shelter its health services are exemplary. The Agency can rightly boast that there has not been a single outbreak of any major epidemic among the refugees throughout the existence of the problem. I feel that the noble Baroness, Lady Summerskill, would like to know that.

The educational services are particularly worthy of note. The vocational training centres, as the noble Baroness, Lady Elliot of Harwood, mentioned, were set up largely as a result of the wonderful response to the Refugee Year campaign, and they deserve the praise they received earlier. In offering the young refugees a means of self-support, they are offering them the opportunity to make new lives for themselves. This is what all refugees want and need, and this cannot be reiterated too often or too loudly. I welcome the fact that so many noble Lords made reference to this. The solution must always be looked at as a long-term solution and never as a short-term solution, and I entirely agree that if you give too much aid for too long, and too often, you may in fact destroy the very real initiative to work which every human has.

I should like, in particular, to stress our welcome for the proposal of the noble Marquess, Lord Lothian. Lord Lothian's committee will establish special bursaries for vocational training schemes, and they are going to be named, as the noble Baroness, Lady Elliot of Harwood, has said, the Astor Bursaries, in memory of the noble Viscount. I would only add that all those who knew of Lord Astor's selfless interest will be delighted that his name has been associated in this way. I would say, in passing, that I had every sympathy with the noble Baroness, Lady Summerskill, when she talked of the sorrow that she felt when seeing groups of children trying to read from one book. I hope that note will be taken of her very practical suggestions, because I cannot believe that more cannot be done in this particular context.

When we come to the contribution of the noble Lord, Lord Inchyra, of course we want to pay a great tribute to the wonderful organisation with which he is associated—the British Red Cross Society. As he so rightly said, Governments cannot deal with an immediate influx of a refugee population, and this is where the voluntary organisation comes into its own. If I were speaking on another subject, I could say that voluntary social service has always a speed of movement which Government Departments can never have, and this is surely one of the reasons why we shall always need it. The noble Lord underlined a philosophy which I have always felt is vital in any aid—that to give quickly is to give twice; and the rapid movement with which the British Red Cross Society is always associated in this type of action is one that we have always marvelled at and admired.

The noble Lord mentioned the problem of the displaced persons who lie outside the description of "refugees", and he asked for some form of international intervention. This is something of which Her Majesty's Government have taken note, and we hope that we shall be able to give him reassurance in the near future. We had most sincere and fascinating descriptions of the Tibetan refugees from the noble Lord, Lord Sandys, on the one hand, and the right reverend Prelate the Bishop of Southwark, on the other, and my rather mundane comments in reply do not in any way mean that we do not see these people as people. Both speakers brought very vividly to us the situation of the Tibetan refugees. They total between 50,000 and 60,000 in Nepal and India, and though their numbers are relatively small, compared with the numbers of refugees in other parts of the world, in human terms, as we have heard, their needs are just as real.

This fact is well recognised by the British voluntary organisations who have been concerned to try to help them, in collaboration with other organisations. The special British interest in the Tibetan refugees is shown in many ways. One example is the need which has been felt by the Standing Conference of British Organisations for Aid to Refugees to have a special sub-committee, on which are representated the voluntary agencies concerned. A very simple illustration of the interest among the British public was provided by the three young Englishmen, Cambridge graduates, who last year volunteered to devote a couple of years of their lives in working among the Tibetans in Nepal.

So far as the United Nations High Commissioner is concerned, while he has provided a certain amount of assistance to the 50,000 Tibetan refugees in India, his main effort for the Tibetans has been for the smaller numbers in Nepal, and this accords with the wishes of the two Governments. For the Tibetans in India, the High Commissioner has made available in the past three years about£56,000, which has been used for medical assistance, settlement in agriculture, the installation of flour mills and other items. For the Tibetans in Nepal, in addition to funds given to provide emergency assistance, the High Commissioner has provided£44,000 towards four resettlement projects—these were the projects, of course, of which we heard in the debate—negotiated with the Nepalese Red Cross.

By financial contributions to the High Commissioner's work, Her Majesty's Government are playing their part in helping the Tibetan refugees. The needs of the latter still remain, in some measure. If one of the results of the European Refugee Campaign is to make extra funds available for the assistance of the Tibetan refugees, it is to be hoped that a permanent solution of the problems of these people will become possible.

I am very glad that the right reverend Prelate the Bishop of Southwark drew attention to the potential of the refugee. I have always wondered in my own simple way why a refugee differs from an immigrant. The potential of an immigrant is recognised; the potential of a refugee always seems to be thrust rather far behind. The right reverend Prelate asked for direct aid, but he warned us that this would undermine the individual's responsibility if it were given too frequently or for too long. I am sure that the voluntary agencies particularly are well aware of this, and the imaginative proposals they provide have always included a limitation on certain projects if they cannot see that these are in fact moving to a long-term settlement.

The noble Lord, Lord Denham, raised the point about counsellors in Germany. I know he will be interested to learn that this is to be considered by the Executive Committee of the High Commissioner on the question of assistance programmes when next they meet in Geneva; and what the noble Lord has said will be borne in mind. This is an assurance which I can give on the other question he raised, and also on the points raised by the noble Lord, Lord Twining.

I think that we can feel very proud of this debate, my Lords. It was on a level which showed the Members of your Lordships' House, if I may say so with all due humility, at their best. They were speaking in a way which we hope the rest of the country will appreciate. The noble Lord, Lord Sandford, in the previous debate in May, 1964,which I read, gave me one quotation which I have written in my diary and which I shall use fregently—and I hope he will forgive me if I use it to-night. He said: …It is up to us…to pray, to think, to plan and to work towards the day when there is no one without food to eat, work to do and a home to live in".—[OFFICIAL REPORT, Vol. 257, col. 1267; 6/5/64.] I would conclude, my Lords, with a quotation from one of my favourite saints, Francis of Sales. He said: The test of a preacher is that his congregation goes away not saying. 'What a lovely sermon', but. 'I will do something about it'. My Lords, I believe that the British people who have behaved so magnificently before will do so this time.

6.33 p.m.


My Lords, I should like to congratulate and thank the noble Baroness for her splendid winding-up speech. I am most grateful to her for what she has said, and for the spirit in which the whole debate has been conducted. It has been, I think, an interesting debate. It has passed over many areas of the world. What always strikes me about your Lordships' House is that, whenever we have a debate on a very wide subject like this, one always finds people who know about Hong Kong, Tibet, Uganda, Germany or wherever it may be. There is always someone who has personal knowledge and experience. That, I think, is what makes our debates very valuable.

I feel most grateful to all those noble Lords who have taken part. We have heard a long list of speakers, and I think they have all made very valuable contributions. I am sure that this will be a great help to the campaign which is starting on Monday. I am also quite sure that the late Lord Astor would have been delighted that so many of his colleagues have taken part in this debate. The tributes that have been paid to him were genuine and heartfelt, and he would have been grateful to know that the work that he began has been carried on so splendidly by everybody. I am quite sure this will be a help to the campaign when it starts on Monday. I thank your Lordships for your contributions, and I beg leave to withdraw my Motion.

Motion for Papers, by leave, withdrawn.