Evian Committee

Held on Monday, July 11 th, 1938, at 11 a.m.
Chairman : Mr. Myron C. Taylor.
14. Communications by the Chairman.
The Chairman.óFor the information of the delegates and all who are attending these meetings, I have to announce that this morning's session will conclude the addresses by delegates.
It is hoped that the final plenary session will take place on Friday afternoon at 3 o'clock, but further notice will be given. In the meantime, the members will resolve themselves into executive session.
A number of delegations have not yet submitted to the Technical Sub-Committee the confidential statements which have been requested regarding the immigration laws and practices of their respective countries and the number and types of immigrants which each country is prepared to receive. It is requested that the statements should be submitted immediately, so that the Technical Sub-Committee may complete its work and promptly present its report. This Sub-Committee will meet at 4 o'clock this afternoon.
15. Communication by the Chairman of the Technical Sub-Committee.
M. Michael Hansson (Norway) [Translation].óThe Technical Sub-Committee has already received written statements from a certain number of delegations. Other delegations have not so far communicated any statements, but their representatives have dealt in the plenary meetings with the questions referred for study to the Technical Sub-Committee. It would, however, be very helpful to have from all delegations statements on the three points on the agenda of the Sub-Committee, and I would therefore invite the delegations of the following countries to be good enough to send representatives to the meeting of the Sub-Committee this afternoon for the purpose of making any statements they may think expedient, or merely in order to inform the Sub-Committee that such material as they have to lay before it has already been embodied in their statements made in the plenary meetingsónamely, the Argentine, Bolivia, Chile, Colombia, Costa Rica, Cuba, Denmark, the Dominican Republic, Ecuador, Ireland, France, Guatemala, Honduras, Mexico, Nicaragua, Paraguay, Peru, Switzerland, Uruguay and Venezuela.
The Committee may then be able to conclude its work to-day and prepare its report to-morrow.
16. General Statements (conclusion).
M. Engzell (Sweden) [Translation.'].óThe Government of Sweden is fully aware of the need for seeking a solution of the present refugee problem by means of wide international collaboration between the countries concerned. It was therefore with great satisfaction that my Government accepted the invitation from the President of the United States to be represented on the Intergovernmental Committee.
For a very long time past, Sweden has followed a most liberal policy in regard to political refugees properly so called. As to other refugees, Sweden in their case also follows a generous policy as far as the economic and social conditions of the country permit.
I must point out that Sweden has not so far acceded to the Geneva Agreements relating to the status of refugees. This abstention is, however, largely due to reasons of a technical character, since accession to those Agreements would in many respects entail amendments to Swedish laws.
In actual fact, however, these Agreements are applied in Sweden. It may even be claimed that refugees who are given the right to remain in Sweden receive, in certain respects, treatment that is even more generous that that which is provided for in the Geneva Agreements.
Sweden is not a country of immigration. Nevertheless, we have, during recent years, received a number of refugees that is by no means small. The Swedish law relating to foreigners does not provide for any quotas or any fixed numbers, and each case has therefore been considered in the light of its own particular circumstances. In admitting refugees, considerations of a personal and humanitarian character have been given great weight. Permits to work have been granted to persons capable and desirous of taking up employment. In general, a sympathetic attitude has been adopted. At the same time, however, it has been necessary to take account of the economic conditions of the country, and also of the qualifications of each foreigner who desires to remain there.
This sympathetic attitude, backed by a policy of selection, has yielded good results. There is at present no intention of changing it. It is therefore not possible to state any definite number of immigrants that can be admitted to Sweden.
I must add, however, that, if an international organ was set up for the purpose of assisting refugees to establish themselves in various countries, Sweden would always be prepared to give sympathetic consideration to any requests put forward by such an organ. Sweden would not refuse, after examination of the particular circumstances of each individual case, to admit a certain number of emigrants possessing the necessary qualifications to enable them to adapt themselves to existing conditions in Sweden.
As to the general problem of how the emigration of political refugees from Germany and Austria may be facilitated, the Swedish Government is of opinion that, if tangible and effective results are to be obtained, emigration must be so arranged that it is directed to countries outside Europe. The circumstances in which such emigration might be effected obviously call for thorough examination. My Government is fully aware of the difficulties that will have to be overcome. It nevertheless hopes that the work of the Intergovernmental Committee may result in a practical plan which will make it possible to undertake this task with prospects of success.
The expenditure involved in carrying out any such plan will inevitably be considerable. Probably the private organisations for refugees will be prepared to take upon themselves a considerable part of this expenditure. But it is certainly essential that the Governments of the various countries, with due regard to their respective resources and the extent of their interest in the solution of the problem, should assist this work by making financial contributions.
I desire to emphasise what has been said by some previous speakers concerning the need for close contact, in regard to any plan that may be drawn up, with the Organisation that is working for the benefit of refugees under the auspices of the League of Nations, and also the importance of taking into account any decisions on these matters that may be reached by the Assembly of the League of Nations at its next session. I would further emphasise the desirability of avoiding, if possible, any duplication of effort and any multiplication of international organisations.
It only needs a slight acquaintance with the question of refugees from Germany and Austria to realise that there is still another problem which is even greater in its scopeó namely, the problem of European Jewish emigration as a whole. I fully appreciate the reasons why the Intergovernmental Committee does not think that it should, at the present meeting, discuss this serious problem. In my Government's view, however, it would have been a good thing, if it had been possible, to deal with it. In Sweden, we take the view that this problem, which is more far-reaching than that of the refugees from Germany and Austria, will not fail, sooner or later, to call urgently for the attention of Europe. Accordingly, we think that it ought not to be lost sight of in dealing with the question of German refugees. The procedure adopted with regard to the latter may well affect the general problem. Nevertheless, in view of what the Chairman has said with regard to the subjects to which the Committee must direct its consideration, I have no intention of suggesting that we should extend the field of our discussion to include the general problem of European emigration. I wished merely to emphasise the existence of this problem and its great importance.
Finally, I should like to associate myself with what several speakers have said concerning the feelings aroused in them by the unhappy and often tragic fate of the refugees. Those feelings are fully shared by all in Sweden. I should like to express the hope that this first meeting of the Intergovernmental Committee may mark the beginning of an effective piece of work leading to positive and lasting results for the benefit of refugees.
Joint Declaration made by Dr. Constantino Herdocia, Delegate of the Republic of Nicaragua ; Professor Luis Dobles Segreda, Delegate of the Republic of Costa Rica ; Dr. Mauricio Rosal, Delegate of the Republic of Honduras ; and Dr. E. Hoffmann, Delegate of the Republic of Panama, on behalf of their Governments.
Mr. Chairman and Gentlemen.
As representatives of the four Governments of Costa Rica, Honduras, Nicaragua and Panama accredited to the Intergovernmental Committee meeting at Evian to study the problem of political refugees who have left their country for various reasons, we have agreed to make the following declaration :
(i) We are in complete agreement in offering the fullest moral support for the generous initiative of His Excellency the President of the United States of America, and we are prepared to co-operate in the great task entrusted to the Intergovernmental Committee, a task which we consider to be highly humanitarian.
We agree to the setting-up of a Permanent Committee which will work in a European capital and which will be responsible for watching over the interests of political refugees irrespective of their nationality, provided always that such persons do not come within the category of immigrants whose admission is prohibited under the laws of our respective countries.
We agree that the Permanent Committee should be empowered to issue the documents necessary for regularising the political situation of these refugees whenever a study of their antecedents shows that it is impossible to obtain such documents in their countries of origin.
(4) The views expressed by many of our distinguished colleagues reveal the unanimous desire of the Governments here represented to find practical solutions for this difficult problem.
To that end, we will consult our respective Governments regarding the manner in which, and the conditions under which, they might accept any refugees assigned to them, provided that all the Governments here represented also undertake to accept a similar percentage strictly computed so as to correspond exactly with the territorial extent of each country and irrespective of any immigrants who have been admitted prior to this congress.
Though new countries like our own are saturated with foreign elements, we cannot deny that the arrival of the latter has contributed to raising the level of our wealth and civilisation. We are, however, limited by the scantiness of our resources and our small powers of assimilation and, while we cannot refuse, we equally cannot exceed the quota which, on a territorial basis, would be proportionate to that of other nations here represented.
We must also declare that our Governments cannot undertake to bring in or settle at then-own expense any refugees. Consequently, any immigrant who wishes to settle must do so at his own expense and risk.
Further, we declare that no persons engaged in trade or intellectual work can be accepted as immigrants by our countries, as their occupations are already overcrowded.
M. Gustavo A. Wiengreen (Paraguay) [Translation].óIt was with great pleasure and the keenest sympathy that the Government of Paraguay accepted the invitation of the United States Government to be represented at this Conference at Evian and thus to collaborate in studying and solving the serious problem which led to this Intergovernmental Meeting being convened.
Paraguay, which possesses an immense territory of extraordinary fertilityóthe first President Roosevelt of the United States when he travelled through it described it as the garden of South Americaóis much too thinly populated to make use of all the advantages bestowed upon it by Providence.
This explains why Paraguay favours in every way the immigration of industrious individuals capable of developing her great natural wealth.
Nevertheless, the experience gained throughout many years proves that it is expedient óeven essentialóto insist on a selection being made of the immigrants who wish to settle in our territory ; consequently, our laws and, in particular, the Decree-Law of March 20th, 1937, stipulate that immigration into Paraguay must be confined to agriculturists or certain classes of craftsmen connected with agriculture.
If, within the limits of these relevant provisions, Paraguay can provide the elements of a happy existence for a large number of farming families, she will be gratified to have made this contribution to the noble and humanitarian work of this Conference.
Mr. F. T. Cremins (Ireland).óThe Irish Government are deeply grateful to the Governments of the United States and France for the opportunity which this meeting affords of expressing their sincere sympathy with the objects for which the Committee has been convened, and their hope that substantial results will follow from consideration of the problems before the delegates. They have been happy to accept the invitation extended to them in order to demonstrate their sympathy, even though, for reasons which I shall briefly set out, they are not, to their great regret, in a position to make any substantial contribution to the solution.
Ireland is a small country with jurisdiction over a population of something less than three million people. Notwithstanding the steady progress which has been made in recent years in regard to the creation of new industries, by far the greater part of our people still derive, and will continue to derive, their living from the land. I need not attempt to explain the land problems which have arisen in Ireland ; it is sufficient to say that there is not enough land available to satisfy the needs of our own people.
Although every effort is being made by the Government to expedite industrialisation in a country which had been greatly under-industrialised, the new industries are not yet capable of absorbing the regular increase in our population, so that each year numbers of young people are forced by circumstances to emigrate. While such emigration remains imposed upon our national economy, it is obvious that we can make no real contribution to the resettlement of refugees.
So much for the agricultural and the industrial sides. On the professional side, it will suffice to say that, in our medical schools, there qualify every year more doctors than are required to care for the health of our people. And similar conditions of over-crowding apply to the other professions. It is for these various reasons that we are not in a position to contribute in any appreciable degree to the solution of this urgent problem, and we are naturally anxious not to promise more than we could hope to perform.
It has, I think, emerged from the speeches already made that there is little likelihood that the fully settled countries will be able to provide homes for more than a fraction of the unhappy persons with whom we are concerned.
The only alternative solution which has been suggested is the opening-up of new or underdeveloped territory. The Irish Government have no such territory under their control, and they are accordingly reluctant to urge the taking by other Governments of measures in which they themselves could not participate. The Irish delegation, however, ventures to express the earnest hope that, notwithstanding the difficulties, the mass of human suffering involved in the refugee problem may, by some such means, be substantially alleviated.
M. H. Rothmund (Switzerland) [Translation].óIt was with the greatest sympathy that the Swiss Government accepted the invitation to take part in this Conference at Evian. The problem of emigration from Austria and Germany is, indeed, of particular interest to Switzerland, which is a neighbour of the countries from which the emigrants come. I shall therefore venture to describe the position of Switzerland.
In view of the large number of foreigners resident in Switzerland, the Government was compelled to introduce, in 1919, at the end of the war, a system of control over the admission of foreigners. The census of 1930 showed that the population included 9% of foreignersó■that is to say, out of a total population of 4 millions, 355,000 were foreigners. Of the latter, about 300,000 were in possession of residence permits, which guaranteed them full liberty to work and to change their situation, occupation or place of residence. In short, these permits gave them an absolutely privileged situation. These conditions remained unchanged during the great crisis through which Switzerland passed in 1921, and have also remained unchanged during the present crisis.
On the other hand, Switzerland finds that it is essential to exercise very stringent control over the admission of any further foreigners. It was in these circumstances that we were taken by surprise by the events of 1933, which then and subsequently compelled very large numbers of people to leave their countries of origin. In April 1933, the Federal Council spontaneously decided to leave the frontier open and to give temporary asylum to all refugees. At the frontier post of Basle alone, some 10,000 German Jews entered Switzerland between April and September 1933. In 1933, 1934 and 1935, it was still comparatively easy to secure authorisations for such refugees to enter countries of final refuge. Switzerland, which is a country of transit, has endeavoured to help these unfortunate people during their stay in the country, and we have given them residence permits valid for a certain length of time to enable them to make their preparations for emigration to countries of final refuge.
The Swiss people have always been moved by the sufferings of others. On many occasions, indeed, they have forgotten their own difficulties in their efforts to help the unfortunate to the fullest possible extent. Several new organisations have been created for this purpose in recent years. I would like to mention the more important of themónamely, the Swiss Central Office for Assistance to Refugees, a neutral organisation which groups together all organisations working on behalf of refugees, in particular the Caritas Association, the Association for the Assistance of Indigent Jews, and the Swiss Association for the Relief of German Intellectual Workers. There is, in the second place, the Swiss Committee for assisting the children of emigrants. Through the efforts of its sections in several Swiss towns, nearly 3,000 children have had holidays arranged for them in Switzerland during the past three years. There is, in the third place, the neutral Committee for the relief of Spanish children.
I would further recall the fact that after the great war Switzerland received herself 150,000 children who were given hospitality on her soil. Switzerland has never allowed anyone to die of hunger, and anyone who falls ill always finds hospital treatment available when necessary, regardless of considerations of nationality or financial position. The country is rightly proud of this tradition. In face of the great distress now reigning abroad, however, it can act only within the limits of its own possibilities, which are naturally restricted, for Switzerland is a small country. The role of the Government is to centralise and direct the efforts of all persons of goodwill who are prepared to collaborate in work for the benefit of refugees, whilst being careful to see that these efforts do not result in a situation with which it would be impossible to deal within the limits imposed by the country's resources.
You will understand that these resources are not unlimited when I tell you that during the winter months we still have in Switzerland about 100,000 unemployed and that expenditure on unemployment relief and emergency relief alone amounted to 88 million francs in 1936, whilst the amount expended in poor relief is about 85 million Swiss francs a year. The total expenditure exceeds 160 million francs a year, or some 40 francs per head of the population. Despite the fact that between 2,000 and 3,000 Swiss nationals have had to return from Spain and that it has been necessary to assist them and find new occupations for them and that, on the other hand, many of my fellow-countrymen have been compelled to emigrate because the country is over-populated, the private societies working for refugees have done their duty. Very considerable sums have been collected for the purpose of feeding them and assisting them in their emigration to countries of final refuge. In each case, the private organisations seek a constructive solutionóthat is to say, they endeavour to arrange for their emigration to countries of final settlement. To achieve this object, the closest collaboration between the authorities responsible for dealing with foreigners in the country and the private organisations is indispensable. We have frequently found that this collaboration is very useful to both parties.
Thus, although we cannot authorise refugees to remain permanently in our country, we treat them with the greatest consideration ; we give permits of temporary residence to those who are worthy of them and we try to find a constructive solution. The law on the residence and establishment of foreigners gives to every foreigner the right to appeal against any decision taken with regard to him by the police authorities, and it is the duty of the first court to inform those concerned of that fact. It is in that way that the Swiss people may be helpful to those human beings who have been uprooted from their homes, although, as I repeat, my country can be nothing more than a transit country.
After the Anschluss, some 3,000 to 4,000 refugees from Austria entered Switzerland between March 12th and April 1st. All the other countries that were neighbours of what was Austria closed their frontiers, and Switzerland was therefore compelled to reintroduce the visa on Austrian passports in order to secure some control over immigration. The Austrians who are still in Switzerland are being assisted by the private organisations, which, through
their international connections, are endeavouring to find possibilities of emigration. In the meantime, the refugees receive residence permits which regularise their situation so far as the police authorities are concerned. When the private organisations cannot find all the money required for emigration, the Confederation grants supplementary subsidies. Emigration has, however, become increasingly difficult in recent years. I therefore noted with great satisfaction that several great overseas countries are, in principle, prepared to facilitate the immigration of these refugees, and I am sure that all European States will welcome this prospect and the hopes that are thus held out. That is, indeed, the first step that should be taken, if effective results are to be achieved. The Committee, the setting-up of which has been proposed by the United States, should, I think, deal with the whole question of immigration into overseas countries and should study that problem in all its aspects.
Further, we all know the work done in the past by the League of Nations. The work it has done for refugees is certainly one of the most noble tasks undertaken by the League, which should continue to deal with this problem in so far as it affects all European countries that have admitted refugees temporarily or may become countries of transit. If it were known that, in specific cases, emigration to another country would be possible, there would be less difficulty in authorising refugees to enter the country and stay there for a certain period of time. The League of Nations, with all the machinery at its disposal, is also in a position to deal with the whole of the question in Europe and could be in close touch with the Emigration Committee which it is proposed to set up. It would be the duty of that Committee to determine the conditions with which refugees must comply if they are to be allowed to emigrateófor example, conditions relating to vocational training or even change of occupationóand for such work the European countries would have to be responsible. I am thinking also of certain special work that might be done for the benefit of the children of refugees. For instance, the possibility of arranging holidays for them. But before all these questions can be studied, the European countries must be informed of the conditions governing emigration into overseas countries.
In conclusion, I should like to say how much I hope the results of this Conference may be such as to facilitate the task of all those who are prepared to co-operate in assisting the refugees, each to the extent of its own possibilities.
M. L. R. Th£baud (Haiti) [Translation].óHaiti, which, even before her emancipation and since then without a break, chivalrously fought for the independence of countries in the three Americas and can even claim to be jointly responsible for the independence of several of those countries, has always shared in all international movements to promote the freedom and well-being of humanity.
In Geneva also, at the fourteenth Assembly of the League of Nations, the Haitian delegation had the honour to propose and, with the support of the French delegation, to secure the extension to other nations of the provisions of the resolution adopted regarding international protection of the rights of man and of citizens.
It was with spontaneous alacrity, therefore, that the Government of the Republic of Haiti responded to the noble appeal made by that eminent statesman President Roosevelt, realising the purpose to be served by this meeting and the distinguished personalities who would attend it on behalf of the various Governments.
The Government of Haiti has been so preoccupied with current developments in the financial crisis which for some months past has affected Haiti more severely than ever that it has had no time to consider the possibility of offering fresh facilities to the categories of political refugees in which it might be interested. This is all the more to be regretted, since the present financial crisis is solely the result of the various Customs restrictions such as embargoes, quotas, higher rates of duty, etc., which, to a great extent, have 'paralysed exports of Haitian produce.
In view of the importance of this Intergovernmental Committee held on the initiative of the United States of America, which will certainly be followed by other similar conferences and congresses, the Government of Haiti thinks it preferable, for its part, to take cognisance of the various forms of action and decisions which will be adopted by [the Governments here represented, so that it may study how it can best facilitate the admission of political refugees from Germany and Austria.
You are, of course, aware of the hospitable character of the people of Haiti, who have already welcomed what I would describe as a very large number of immigrants in comparison with the population of the country (about 3,200,000). I feel already certain, therefore, that the facilities which my Government will extend to immigrants of the categories which the country wishes to admit will be highly advantageous to them.
In view of the country's economic structure (essentially agricultural), its social situation and the present financial crisis, Haiti must insist on the foreigners who ask for her hospitality being of thoroughly healthy stock, capable of being rapidly absorbed into the community and possessing sufficient capital and resources to create permanent employment. For the time being, preference will be given among such persons to agriculturists and agricultural experts and to persons with technical qualifications in small industries who bring with them working capital and are likely to settle in the country definitely.
I was therefore very interested to note from the statement made by M. Beucker-Andreae, representative of the Netherlands, the policy adopted in his country, which might eventually fit in usefully with the principles of the Haitian Government, seeing that the Netherlands furnish education in agriculture and training for industrial occupations to refugees, so that
they may be equipped for emigrating to countries where they can settle definitely. The Government of Haiti would be glad to keep in constant touch on this question with the Netherlands and all other countries which follow this practice.
To help those with whose fate this Committee is concerned, I suggest setting up a committee to summarise in one volume the immigration laws and regulations of the various countries and all practical information of any kind on such countries. This would enable the unhappy exiles to ascertain as speedily and as fully as possible which country suited them best from the standpoint of their physical, intellectual and moral conditionói.e., their actual personality.
The Chairman.óI am sure it is most gratifying that such profound views have been presented by the various delegates who have spoken. This free exchange of opinion cannot fail to have a very helpful influence in contributing, not only to a more general understanding of these great problems, but towards the development of policies designed for their amelioration.
M. J. M. Yepes (Colombia) [Translation].óWill the question of the creation of a Permanent Intergovernmental Committee be discussed in a public or in a private meeting ?
The Chairman.óIt will be discussed in private session, when we approach the concluding stage of our Conference and undertake to set down our judgment in the form of a resolution.
(The meeting rose.)