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Officials in Rome Doubt Whether Refugees Will Accept Offer of Italian Citizenship

August 23, 1944
See Original Daily Bulletin From This Date

Officials here dealing with the refugee problem today expressed doubt as to whether any great proportion of the stateless refugees in Italy will care to accept the offer by the Italian Government of citizenship to all stateless persons now residing in this country.

The opinion of these officials is based on the fact that life in Italy for many years to come will be most difficult, and people who are not Italians would have the greatest hardships in establishing an economic basis for existence. The offer of the Italian Government, however, is considered important as a precedent for other countries where there are such stateless persons also and where the conditions would be more suitable for their absorption.

Sir Clifford Heatecote-Smith, representative of the Intergovernmental Committee on Refugees, today told a conference of officials of the Allied Control Commission here that of 15 to 20 million displaced refugees in Europe after the war, between one and two million would be stateless in that they would have no country to return to either in fact or in law. He praised the Italian Government for its “kind and helpful gesture” toward a solution of the problem. There are about 4,000 stateless refugees in liberated Italy at present, of whom between 2,000 and 3,000 are Jews, he said. Those in Rome have been invited to a meeting next Friday at which Sir Clifford will explain the Italian Government’s offer and advise its acceptance.


Sir Clifford informed the conference that one transport of stateless has already left for Palestine but he warned, in connection with the flow of refugees from central Europe, that the number of additional refugees that Palestine could absorb would be limited.

Outlining the intergovernmental committee’s work, Sir Clifford, who recently returned from a plenary session of the committee in London, declared that it had the overall duty to survey the refugee problem and cooperate with existing organizations. The committee at present is trying to discover, he said, “what is on the other side of the line,” but the fascists destroyed many records which should have been in Rome. He cited the cooperation, in the committee’s local office, of the American Quakers, the American Joint Distribution Committee and the British Friends Ambulance Unit, and expressed belief that UNRRA will also be functioning here.

An agreement between the Allied Control Commission and UNRRA, whereby the latter will take over operation of the large camps in southern Italy housing non-Italian refugees, was disclosed by Col. C. B. Findlay, head of the commission’s displaced persons unit. He told the conference that refugee officials expected to find a much greater problem in northern Italy than they had so far encountered and warned that unless UNRRA took over the existing camps, the Allied Control Commission organization would not be able to cope with the new tasks.

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