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15 Makin to Calwell

Letter CANBERRA, 9 July 1946

One of the main questions which will arise at the forthcoming Meeting of U.N.R.R.A. Council in Geneva opening on 6th August, 1946, will be that of displaced persons. It seems desirable therefore that you should nominate a representative from your Department to attend the Meeting, and I should be glad if you would give this matter careful consideration.

All the documents concerning the activities of U.N.R.R.A. in regard to displaced persons have been forwarded to your Department as received from time to time. The problem which will be presented to the Council Meeting will be that of dealing with the hard core of the 6-700,000 European refugees who will never return to their native lands, in face of the termination of U.N.R.R.A.'s activities.

I attach a letter just received from Mr. La Guardia, Deputy Director of U.N.R.R.A. on the subject, together with notes of an interview with Commander Jackson, the Senior Deputy Director- General, during his recent flying visit to Canberra. I should be glad if you would consider what reply might be given to Mr. La Guardia and advise me accordingly.

It would seem that the Australian Government will need to decide what policy to adopt when the proposition is advanced that we should absorb a proportionate share of displaced persons, provided other countries do the same. When you have considered the matter, it would seem appropriate that we should make a joint submission to Cabinet on the subject, so that our representatives at the U.N.R.R.A. Council Meeting, and at subsequent International Meetings on the subject, may be suitably instructed.

Commander Jackson also stated, incidentally, that agents from certain other countries, especially South American, were already active among displaced persons with a view to selecting the most suitable immigrants for their purposes, in anticipation of the resettlement of the remaining displaced persons in new countries.

Whatever plans are adopted for dealing with displaced persons, however, implementation of those plans will take some time.

U.N.R.R.A. is scheduled to cease operations in Europe on 31st December, 1946, and in the Far East on 31st March, 1947. Some organisation for carrying out displaced persons operations will, however, be required beyond those dates.

The Economic and Social Council has recommended the establishment of a displaced persons organisation to commence operations on 1st January, 1947. [1] It may not be possible, however, to have this organisation functioning effectively by the proposed date, and the matter will be further discussed at the meeting of the United Nations General Assembly to be held in September next.

Australia has given support to the formation of a displaced persons organisation which would operate as a subsidiary organ of the United Nations or, failing that, which would operate as a specialised agency linked as closely as possible with the Economic and Social Council.

As pointed out above, it may not be possible to establish an effective organisation before the expiration of U.N.R.R.A.'s present term, and the forthcoming U.N.R.R.A. Council Meeting will, therefore, consider the question of extending the period of U.N.R.R.A.'s responsibilities in the displaced persons field. If you are agreeable, I would suggest that our delegates to this Meeting should support extension of U.N.R.R.A.'s displaced persons responsibilities until such time as an effective displaced persons organisation is established.

It would be appreciated if you would inform me fully of your views on the questions raised above at the earliest possible date. [2]

1 See Volume IX, Documents 185, and 290 and note 4 thereto.

2 Calwell replied on 11 July nominating either R. H. Wheeler or N.

W. Lamidey, though in the event the Immigration Dept was represented at the Geneva meeting by T. M. Nulty, Immigration Officer in the High Commissioner's Office, London. Calwell also confirmed the previously stated view of the government that Australia could not at present increase its target figure of 70 000 immigrants a year. See Volume IX, Document 195, note 2.

[AA:A1067, R46/3/3]
Last Updated: 11 September 2013

Category: International relations

Topic: History