418 Ball to Department of External Affairs

Cablegram 21 BATAVIA, 27 November 1945

SECRET

For some time now Dutch women and children ex-internees have been beseeching me to gain asylum for them for some months in Australia. Their condition is pitiful. This morning the Combined Red Cross Authorities have made an appeal in the press to support a campaign to find a place outside Java to which these women might be sent to recuperate. This morning the Catholic Bishop of Batavia [1] called on me to make a special appeal to Australia emphasizing that Australia was particularly attractive because it is close and because of its climate and political stability.

I venture to suggest that if Australian leaders were to visit these camps they would be so deeply moved that they would be prepared to make great sacrifices to rescue as many of these people as possible. I understand that we have undertaken to accept a maximum of 10,000 on condition that the Dutch provide accommodation and that this condition effectively limits the number to 6,000. I feel this to be a humanitarian appeal of the most urgent and genuine kind. I believe that a very generous Australian gesture would bring us great goodwill and have no political implications. There are approximately 190,000 Dutch and Eurasian men, women and children who want temporary asylum. I would respectfully venture to suggest that we might offer to take 50,000 instead of 10,000. But if action is to be effective it must be immediate. [2]

I await very eagerly any advice about the project of sending food and supply ships from Australia here. [3]

1 Bishop Pietro Willekens, S.J.

2 In cablegram 28, dispatched 3 December, Ball was informed that the Commonwealth Govt had agreed in principle to the reception, for a limited period, of as many Dutch men, women and children from the N.E.I. as Australia's capacity to accommodate them would allow. See also Makin's letter of 12 December to Van Aerssen. Both on file AA : A1838/2, 401/3/6/1/8.

3 Cablegram 27 to Proud, dispatched 25 December, reported a conference with Union officials on 20 December as a result of which it appeared likely that ships transporting relief supplies to Java would be manned subject to certain provisos. On file AA :

A1838/2, 381/1/2/1.

[AA : A1838/2, 401/1/2/1]