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Aiding the Exiles

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This is the #ast of three articles in which Mr. McDonald reports on various aspects of his work


Following the recommendations of our governing body at its last meeting, nearly all the States represented have agreed to issue to the refugees from Germany who cannot obtain national passports official documents of identity and travel, by which they are enabled to move from one country to another. In addition to the governments represented on the governing body, all States have been requested to adopt a similar procedure for refugees in their country, and further to give recognition to the special documents of travel issued by another State of refuge. Favorable answers have been received from a number of States

While, however, the position with regard to travel documents has been placed on a more satisfactory basis, the position with regard to the permits for the refugees to reside in the country of refuge is less satisfactory.


The French government which, as we have always gratefully recognized, opened its doors to the greatest number of those who were driven from Germany last year, made it known during the Summer that it would follow a certain procedure to regulate the status of the refugees. Nevertheless, the High Commissioner’s office receives frequent reports from France of notices to quit which, issued to the refugees, render their position precarious and insecure. Similar reports have been received from Switzerland and Holland.

It is appreciated that in present economic circumstances States are reluctant to give a permit to foreigners to remain in their country; but on the other hand it destroys the benefit of asylum if the refugees from persecution who have been admitted into the country are constantly harried by police regulations and deprived of all feeling of security. In some countries where a permit to stay is granted, it is given for so short a period and its renewal is subject to such difficulties that again the refugee is worried by a constant sense of insecurity.


As regards permits to work, the governments, for the most part, have not shown any greater liberality during the last six months. A few countries have given opportunities to refugees to establish businesses and accept employment, but in most the restrictions against foreigners have been strictly applied. I appreciate that economic circumstances today, with the grave crisis of unemployment, make it difficult to extend facilities for work to foreigners, but in some cases the attitude appears to be excessively rigid.

Moreover, it is a mistake to represent that the refugees are an economic burden in the life of the countries in which they live. Apart from the money which those who have means to spend for their maintenance, and which the organizations spend for the maintenance of those who are destitute, a number of those who left Germany have established industries in the principal countries of refuge which have given employment to a large number of the inhabitants of the country and have brought new enterprises to the country of asylum.


In Holland a very interesting study was made in the Summer of 1934 by the Commission for the Economic Advice of German Emigrants, into the industries established by German Jews since April, 1933. The report has been published, and it has the striking conclusion that the number of workers in Holland who have been brought into employment by the direct economic activity of the refugees is approximately the same as the number of German refugees who came to Holland, namely, 5,000. Ninety per cent of the workmen employed in the factories established by German industrialists in Holland are Dutchmen. The new industries established for the most part produce articles which hitherto were imported into Holland from Germany or elsewhere; and besides new industries, the refugees have brought to the country export and mercantile undertakings of importance. It is believed that a similar inquiry in other countries would give the same results.

The refugee organizations are, then, entitled to ask that some liberality should be shown in the grant of permits to work to refugees as a return for the economic benefit which the independent refugees, industrialists and others, have introduced in the countries of refuge.


There are certain classes of refugees whose position is made particularly precarious. It was the recommendation of the governing body last May that stateless refugees, including those who were without nationality in Germany and those who have been deprived of German nationality by recent decrees, should receive the same facilities as to residence and employment as were granted to those of German nationality. That recommendation has been received with reserve by most of the governments, and the High Commissioner’s office receives many petitions from stateless refugees, and representations from the organizations, about refusals to allow stateless refugees to remain in the country when the period of their temporary permission has expired. The number of stateless refugees is being increased during the last months because of the German policy of driving stateless persons from Germany. During the month of September, twenty-six stateless Jews just expelled from Germany came for help to the Jewish Relief Committee in Prague.

The problem of the stateless in general has exercised the organizations of the League of Nations in recent years, but it has not yet found a satisfactory solution. Persons without a State nationality are not welcome anywhere; but it is submitted that the only human method of dealing with stateless refugees who cannot be sent back to Germany is that the country in which they have sought asylum should, subject to their good behaviour, either allow them to stay, or, if they have a chance of settlement overseas or elsewhere, grant them the necessary travel document.


Another class which is in a particularly precarious situation is composed of those political refugees, some of them Communists, who have entered without a permit the country of refuge and are therefore hiding from the police authorities. The organizations concerned with political refugees not seldom bring to the notice of the High Commissioner cases of great hardship where these persons are threatened with forcible return to Germany.

The political refugee, and not least he who holds extreme views, has a special claim on the right of asylum; and it is submitted that, if he has been of good conduct in the country of refuge and has not engaged in any subversive activity in the country, it is contrary to the principle of asylum that he should be driven from the country simply on the ground that his papers are not in order.


Moreover, in this matter of papers for the refugees I regret that I have to report that it is the practice in some countries to charge more for these emergency and temporary papers than is charged for the regular national passports. This does not appear to be a deliberate discrimination against the refugees, but rather a carry-over from administrative regulations which had been initially designed for foreign tourists or residents well able to pay.

But now, when these charges are assessed against the refugees, many of whom are destitute, the sums become in fact an impossible burden. I urge, therefore, that each of the governments which have continued the practice of charging more than the nominal fees for papers issued to refugees, should put into effect the recommendation adopted by the Governing Body in reference to visas, that

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