Volume #13 - 191.|
High Commissioner in United Kingdom|
to Under-Secretary of State for External Affairs
January 23, 1947|
Following for Pearson from Robertson, Begins: Reference my telegram No. 123 of January 21st6 I hesitate to thrust half-thought-out suggestions at you, but 1 feel I should try to put on paper some ideas about the handling of the problems of displaced persons, which might after whittling down be suitable for inclusion in the German Treaty, though not perhaps for sponsorship in a Canadian brief.
2. I have little hope of anything substantial coming out of plans for overseas group settlement of displaced persons which now fill the minds of the governments co-operating in the Inter-Governmental Refugee Committee.7 I need not spell out the reasons for a lack of faith in this line of approach, though from the point of view of a country like Canada, they should be obvious.
3. An alternative approach which I think promising would begin by stripping the label from these unfortunate persons in as quick and kindly fashion as possible. We should try to get away from such elaborate political categories and sub-categories as have complicated and confused our efforts to select 4,000 Poles from Anders army8 for agricultural employment in Canada. Similar categories with labels imposed by military governments, UNRRA, and the I.G.C., tend to give each class of refugee a corporate character and a definite grading in the political spectrum, which can only make the task of their ultimate assimilation and absorption, whether in Europe or overseas, infinitely difficult. I should like to see an immediate effort made to dissolve the present communities of displaced persons, first within the German community wherein the vast majority are presently resident, secondly within the general European community. The third phase of their assimilation and absorption would come with the re-opening to Europe of opportunities for overseas settlement to suitable individuals, not to organized groups and classes with special and conflicting priority ratings.
4. I have been trying to look at the problem from what I conceive to be the interest of Canada as an important country of immigration during the next decade or so. From this point of view I should like to sec us drawing at our own discretion on a general European pool within which the displaced elements had been already dissolved or were at least suspended in some kind of equilibrium. The alternative course along which the governments are now drifting promises years of pressure groups, racial, religious, and political, all trying to influence and distort our immigration policy — with very little real settlement and that continuously controversial.
5. It seems to me that a first step toward reversing present trends might be to stipulate in the German Treaty that all persons now in Germany, regardless of how they got there, whether they be Balls, Ukrainians, Sudetens, Jews, Swabians, Poles etc. should be granted as of right the option of legal domicile in Germany, with eligibility on equal terms with all natural-born residents of the Reich for whatever is left of social and civil status in Germany today; i.e. they should be free to work at any trade, enter any profession, own land, qualify for citizenship if they desire to. "Domicile" in Germany for the purposes of the Treaty could he defined to include obligation on Germany (perhaps valid for a limited number of years) to receive them back as deportees if other countries to which they might have been admitted concluded that they were unsuitable as immigrants. To give displaced or stateless persons a right to return to some part of the earth's surface would in fact greatly facilitate their chances of obtaining employment and the opportunity of settlement in other countries which, like our own, have been very hesitant about accepting undeportable immigrants regardless of their personal qualities and qualifications.
6. The displacement of these people from their nomes and their present predicament in Germany can be regarded as directly or indirectly a consequence of German aggression; to the extent that their interim settlement in Germany represented a new liability on the German economy, it could be represented as another form of reparation, a reparation without a transfer problem and with the compensatory addition to the German working force of the skills and capacities of such of these people as elected to live and work there.
7. I should expect such a provision in the German Treaty to lead in many cases to fairly rapid local assimilation. In other cases German residence might prove only a transitional period pending admission into other coumries, in Europe or overseas for permanent settlement. In any case the prospect of permanent settlement for likely individuals would be enormously facilitated if they could be stripped of their present political labels (regardless of whether those labels are meant to designate a special claimant status or a general racial stigma) taken out of camps, given a domicile and a chance to go back to work.
8. To sum up such a provision might help:
(I) Speed up the liquidation of a political and economic problem which might otherwise plague Governments and prejudice international relations for twenty years.
(2) Saddle Germany with primary responsibility for the solution of a problem which her policies have created.
(3) Give individual displaced persons a more real opportunity than they have now of reestablishing themselves in new homes either in Europe or abroad.
(4) Give overseas countries an opportunity to develop selective immigration policies adapted to their needs, and absorptive capacities — and relatively unburdened by the special pressures which may well make it impossible for us to work out any coherent and sensible immigration policy at all.
7Créé à la Conférence d'Évian en 1938.
8Le général Wladyslaw Anders commandait les forces polonaises qui servirent avec les Alliés en Italie.