How Many Will Be Left After The War?

[This is Page Three, continued from Page Two and One.]

We do not, of course, know precisely how many further arrivals there will be. But the Foreign Secretary, in his Report on the 1943 Bermuda Conference on refugee questions between the British and the United States governments, stated that Great Britain was continuing to admit about 800 non-British war refugees every month. These, like most of the war refugees, will, for the most part, stay in this country only to fight. “Nearly all are admitted because they are wanted for the Armed Forces or the Merchant Service of ourselves or our Allies. Nearly all of them are people who would be repatriated after the war.”[6]

Hardly any refugees were admitted for civilian work even when possessing rare qualifications.   Many already in Spain or Portugal were rejected although their families were already in Britain and they also had jobs awaiting them.

In May, 1943, three concessions were made to meet hard cases. Subject to security precautions persons were to be considered eligible for admission if they were either:

(i)                 parents of persons serving in His Majesty’s or Allied Forces or in their Mercantile Marines;

(ii)             persons of other than Allied nationality, willing to join His Majesty’s Forces and certified to be fit and acceptable for them;

(iii)          parents of children under sixteen who are already in Britain and who came unaccompanied.

“But six months later it was stated that the number of British visas authorised under these categories had been only twenty-four, eighteen and ten respectively or fifty-two in all.”[7]

In any case new admissions are not likely to do more than replace losses through deaths and emigration. It is therefore reasonable to assume that the totals at the end of the war will certainly not be higher than 140,000. Mr. Morrison’s estimate of 120,000 does, indeed, suggest that the number of refugees will be even less than this, since the total is evidently contracting.

How many of these will wish to stay? It is at once obvious that allied nationals will behave very differently from enemy aliens. It will be best to consider them separately.

Allied nationals

To take the former category first, it contains, apart from Czechs and Poles, some 70,000 persons. Most of these have arrived during the war. They only wished to find a temporary refuge or to continue the struggle for the liberation of their own countries, and fully intend to return home as soon as conditions allow. There will, of course, be some exceptions. A very few allied refugee women have, for instance, married British subjects and will probably remain. A few men have also married British women: about 1,500 Dutchmen, 1,200 Poles and 1,000 Norwegians, most of whom are in the Allied Forces, have, for example, married British women during the war. Some of them may want to stay. Then there are some young people who have built a new life in Britain which they may not want to give up. Any estimates must necessarily be vague owing to the scantiness of the evidence and to the impossibility of forecasting post-war conditions; it can be suggested, as a guess, that the number who will remain permanently will not be more than 3-6 per cent. of the total, or 2,100-4,200 persons.

It is probable that a rather higher proportion of refugees from Czechoslovakia or Poland will wish to stay. Most of the 10,000 Czechoslovaks came before the war and many of them have become settled. The Sudeten Germans, of whom many were Jewish, may have other reasons for not returning. As to the Poles, there was considerable emigration from Poland, usually to France and America, in peacetime. And most of the Polish Jews suffered from persecution even before the war and may not wish to risk a repetition of the same treatment. Perhaps 10-15 per cent. of the refugees from Czechoslovakia and Poland, amounting to 2-3,000 persons in all, will hope to remain.

Germans and Austrians

About 90 per cent. of the German and Austrian refugees are Jews. The majority will probably prefer not to return to a country which has been ruled for many years by Nazis who have murdered thousands of their co-religionists and who have consistently preached racial hatred. Moreover, about 2,000 German or Austrian girls have married British nationals since 1933.  More of the political refugees will probably return, as will more of the Austrians, the future independence of whose country was proclaimed at the Moscow Conference. All in all, perhaps 12-16 per cent., or 6-8,000, of these refugees (mainly Austrians) will want to go back.

Of the remaining 42-44,000, a fair proportion, estimated at 10,000-12,000, may re-emigrate after the war. These last will include refugees who (a) intend to rejoin their families in the U.S.A., in Palestine and in other countries, (b) refugees who have affidavits and definite prospects overseas, and (c) youths who have had agricultural training here with a view to farming in Palestine or the Dominions. There are thus 30,000-34,000 potentially permanent residents of German and Austrian origin in this country. To these should be added 1,200 refugees of various other nationalities.

To sum up, the number who will want to remain in Britain will, on the basis of the above estimates, be between 35,300 and 42,400, or, roughly, 40,000 persons – less than one person per 1,000 British nationals. The conclusion which stands out is that the numbers involved will be very small -equivalent to the population of Dover or Macclesfield.

It follows that it should be possible to absorb the numbers in question without difficulty.

Do we need them after the war?

Humanitarian considerations make it imperative to solve the refugee problem after victory and so to reduce the human  misery created by Nazi rule in Europe.

But purely utilitarian reasons also make it desirable that the 40,000 foreigners – including 30,000 German and Austrian Jews – who have been admitted during the last decade and wish to stay here should be given an opportunity of becoming permanent residents. This policy should be pursued mainly for two reasons:

(i)                 The declining British population trend would be favourably, even though slightly, affected.

(i)                 Their absorption is likely to have favourable effects on our economic, cultural and scientific life.

For the last twenty years or so our population has been failing to reproduce itself.  The small increase in total numbers which occurred during this period was partly the result of an abnormal age composition – favourable to relatively high birth-rates and low death-rates – which is bound to disappear within a few years. Partly it was due to immigration. From 1932 to 1939 England and Wales had on the average a yearly net gain of 65,000 immigrants; that is to say there were every year 65,000 more immigrants than emigrants. Of course, only a small part of them were refugees. During the Depression most new arrivals were British nationals who re-emigrated from the Dominions and Colonies, but this return movement had markedly slowed down during the years of economic recovery before the outbreak of the war. The number of British emigrants from this country simultaneously showed a rising tendency. In 1938 and 1939 immigration into this country consisted mainly of refugees from Central Europe.

What about the future? Is it likely that after the war our dwindling numbers will be reinforced through immigration from the British Commonwealth as they were in the ‘thirties? In fact the opposite is very likely to occur. The Dominions have decided to encourage immigration from Great Britain after the war. Their rapid industrialisation offers powerful incentives to British workmen with initiative. Moreover, knowledge of the favourable economic conditions in the U.S. and the Dominions has been spread by the great number of U.S.A. and Dominion soldiers stationed in this country. We must therefore expect that after the war an adverse balance of migration will result in additional losses of population.

Lord Cranborne, reporting to the House of Lords (24th May, 1944) on the recent meeting of the Prime Ministers of the Dominions, pointed out that he regarded as a particularly encouraging feature of these meetings that there was abundant evidence that all Dominions would like to take British emigrants, so far as it was in any way possible. ” We have, he said, “made it abundantly clear that notwithstanding the fact that our population in these islands is tending perhaps rather to decrease than to increase, yet on broad Imperial grounds, we do feel that we should encourage and assist as far as practicable inter-Imperial migration.”

Population forecasts suggest that in the future the excess of deaths over births may lead to a population decrease of about 20 per cent. within one generation. British emigration to the Dominions may be desirable in the interest of the Commonwealth, but it would undoubtedly aggravate the British population problem. In order to offset this loss, the permanent settlement of refugee immigrants who wish to stay here should therefore be encouraged. The presence of a very high percentage of aliens in any country might in certain circumstances have undesirable effects. But in Britain the percentage is not high in comparison with other countries. We know that the total number of aliens in Britain was very much smaller than in other countries before the refugee emigration began in 1933.

Number of aliens in various European countries.

Country Year Total Nos. Percentage of Aliens
Switzerland 1930 355,522 8.7
France 1931 2,891,168 6.9
Austria 1930 316,982 3.9
Holland 1930 175,850 2.2
Germany 1933 756,760 1.2
Great Britain 1931 183,869 0.4

We also know that by 1943 the total alien population in Great Britain (including refugees, all permanent residents of non-British nationality, allied seamen, etc.) had probably not risen to more than 290,000.[8]

If we allow for 100,000 refugees and for a number of other aliens who are likely to leave the country after the war, Britain will be left with an alien population not exceeding that of 1931, and less than in any other census year since 1881.

Continue to Page Four: WHAT HAVE BEEN THE EFFECTS?

[6] Miss Rathbone, M.P. House of Commons, December 14th, 1943.

[7] ‘Continuing Terror,’ National Committee for Rescue from Nazi Terror. 1944.

[8] Two hundred and seventy-seven thousand, one hundred and sixteen persons were registered with the police on March 31st, 1943.  Allowance has to be made for children not subject to registration, and for a number of persons who have died or emigrated but are still registered.

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