52 Chifley to Williams

Letter CANBERRA, [1 August 1946 [1]]

I refer to your letter of 27th July, 946 [2], relative to the problem of dealing with displaced persons and refugees in Europe.

The Commonwealth Government has already indicated publicly through its representatives at overseas conferences that the Government will co-operate with any international agency which is set up to handle the question of refugees and displaced persons.

At the Evian Conference in 1938 [3], Australia agreed to accept a quota of refugees from Europe and until the inflow was stopped by the outbreak of war, approximately 7,000 refugees had been granted asylum in this country.

Substantial limitations are imposed upon the desire of the Australian Government to facilitate the further immigration to Australia of displaced persons. These limitations include the need for rehabilitating Australian ex-servicemen and women, national housing difficulties and shortage of shipping, and also our special commitments in regard to British migration to Australia.

Nevertheless, since the cessation of hostilities in Europe, the Commonwealth has granted landing permits in favour of over 6,000 relatives in Europe of refugees already in Australia who have undertaken to look after their nominees on arrival here. The majority of these nominees are of Jewish origin, and come within the category of displaced persons.

Many applications are still being received and will be given sympathetic consideration according to their individual merits.

You will no doubt appreciate that, proportionately to Australia's population, the number of permits granted, which is likely to be increased by several thousands before transport facilities become available, represents a substantial contribution to the settlement of the problem under consideration, particularly in so far as Jewish refugees or displaced persons are concerned.

J. B. CHIFLEY

Prime Minister

1 The file copy of the letter was undated. It Was written on or about 2 August following receipt of an External Affairs Dept memorandum of 1 August.

2 Document 38.

3 Representatives of 32 countries met at Evian in July 1938 and established an inter-governmental committee to facilitate migration of political refugees from Austria and Germany. See Volume I, Document 318.

[AA:A1067, M46/17/2]