No. 41 NAI DT S11007A

Memorandum for Government by the Department of Justice on the admission of refugees from Europe1

Dublin, 30 November 1945

  1. The Minister for Justice seeks the approval of the Government for the proposals set out in paragraph 6 of this Memorandum in regard to the admission of refugees from the Continent.
  2. The Refugee Problem:
    There are on the continent at present millions of 'displaced' persons, and it may be expected that in the near future numerous requests will be received for the admission of refugees into this country, and for the admission of people, other than refugees, who have suffered from the war, and who require a period of rest and recuperation. The refugees who may be expected to seek admission are likely to be mainly Polish, Hungarian and perhaps Austrian Catholics of the 'upper classes' who are unwilling to live under the present régime in those countries. The persons who may be expected to seek permission to come here for periods of rest and recuperation will be mainly French, Belgian and Dutch, including relatives and friends of Jews resident here. There are, of course, more 'displaced' persons in Germany than in any other country, but it is unlikely that any Germans will be allowed to emigrate for some time.
  3. Present Policy of Department of Justice
    The present policy of the Department of Justice in regard to the admission of aliens may be summarised as follows:-
    • Temporary visitors
      1. Aliens coming on business visits are admitted freely, provided the Department is satisfied (after consultation with the Department of Industry and Commerce) that the business is not undesirable and that the aliens will be able to return to their own countries.
      2. Aliens coming to take up employment are admitted, provided their prospective employers obtain permits from the Department of Industry and Commerce, and provided (a) the Department of Justice is satisfied that the aliens will be able to return to their own countries when their services are no longer required, or (b) the Department of Industry and Commerce certify that the services of the aliens are so valuable as to justify their acceptance as permanent residents.
      3. Aliens, who apply for permission to come here for holidays or periods of rest and recuperation, are admitted freely provided the Department is satisfied that the maintenance of the aliens is assured and that the aliens will return to their own countries.
      4. Visas are granted freely to students provided the Department is satisfied that they will leave on completion of their studies.
    • Aliens coming for permanent Residence or Asylum:
      1. Applications from aliens who are married to Irish citizens receive sympathetic consideration.
      2. Applications from dependent relatives (e.g., aged parents and minor children) of aliens resident here are normally granted.
      3. Applications from aliens with special qualifications, who desire to start business here, are favourably considered, provided the Department of Industry and Commerce consider that the present of the aliens would be an advantage.
      4. Applications from persons such as distinguished scholars receive sympathetic consideration.
      5. Applications from refugees, who have no special qualification, but who wish to come here for temporary or permanent refuge, are usually refused, unless the aliens have some connection with this country - e.g., the O'Rourke family2 of Poland. It should be mentioned, however, that during 1935 and 1939, an exception was made from this general rule, and approximately 150 'non-Aryan' refugees from Germany were admitted for temporary refuge. Approximately 50 of these have since emigrated or died, and the remainder are left as an addition to our permanent alien population.
    • Jews:

      The immigration of Jews is generally discouraged. The wealth and influence of the Jewish community in this country appear to have increased considerably in recent years and there is some danger of exciting opposition and controversy if this tendency continues. As Jews do not become assimilated with the native population, like other immigrants, any big increase in their numbers might create a social problem.

  1. Relief offers made by the Government to date:
    • During the past few years the Government have agreed to the admission of the following groups of children for periods of rest and recuperation, on the understanding that the children would return to their own countries in due course:
      1. up to 500 French children;
      2. up to 500 continental Jewish children;
      3. an unspecified number of Dutch children.
    • 100 French children have already arrived and other batches are expected later on. The children will be placed in boarding schools here, and they are expected to return to France within twelve months. The arrangements are being made by the Red Cross Society in co-operation with the French Red Cross.
    • The agreement to the admission of 500 Jewish children was given in response to an approach made by President Roosevelt in 1943, on behalf of the American Jewish Advisory Committee. The offer was not followed up by the Jewish Committee, however, and the Department of External Affairs are of opinion that nothing will come of it.
    • The request for the admission of Dutch children was made by the Dutch Consul General on the basis that only children, who would be provided for by Dutch nationals resident here, would be admitted. Nothing definite has come of this offer, but it is possible that, when transport facilities improve, applications will be received.
  2. Suggestions of Irish Polish Society and Lady Listowel for Admission of Refugees
    • Professor Alfred O'Rahilly, President of UCC, on behalf of the Irish Polish Society (an organisation recently formed and including amongst its members the Lord Mayor of Dublin3 and the Presidents of UCD,4 UCC, and UCG5), has asked for permission for the entry of approximately 200 Polish students (some university students and some secondary school students) from Great Britain. The Society have been in touch with the 'London' Polish Government, and the application has the support of the Minister for Education of that Government.6 Professor O'Rahilly states that the University Colleges would be prepared to remit fees in respect of the University students, but he suggests that some State aid should be granted.
    • Lady Listowel7 (who is a Hungarian by birth) has suggested that a number of Hungarians (say 150) should be admitted here. She suggests that the persons to be admitted should be selected from the point of view of their usefulness to the country. She states that, if the Government approve of the suggestion, she will take steps to set up a committee to advance the project. She hopes to be able to raise money from Hungarians in America, but, she asks that the Government should make a grant to set the scheme going.
  3. Department of Justice Proposal:
    • This problem has been discussed by the Department of External Affairs and the Department of Justice. The Department of External Affairs are of opinion that, in view of the plight of millions of displaced persons in Europe, this country should make a contribution towards the relief of suffering by offering temporary refuge in this country to a limited number (say 250) of refugees within the next twelve months. The majority of the refugees so admitted would probably remain here, but it is considered desirable that they should be admitted on the understanding that they would be expected to make arrangements, if possible, to go elsewhere in due course.
    • The Minister for Justice is prepared to modify his policy in regard to the admission of aliens so as to meet the suggestion of the Department of External Affairs, but he desires that the matter should be considered by the Government.
    • It is proposed that the persons to be admitted should be displaced persons from the continent and not persons who have already found refuge in countries like Great Britain, France, Spain, Portugal, etc.
    • As it is probable that various societies and individuals will put forward claims for the admission of different classes of refugees, it seems desirable that a co-ordinating committee should be set up to select (subject, of course, to the over-riding authority of the Minister) the persons to be admitted, and to make any necessary arrangements for the accommodation and maintenance of the refugees. The Minister suggests that the Red Cross Society should be approached to undertake this task and to take steps to set up a suitable committee.
    • It is probable that, amongst the persons who will seek admission, there will be a fairly high percentage of persons who wish to study here for the professions. Competition from aliens might be undesirable in the professions, which are already overcrowded, and it may be necessary to impose some restriction on the admission of such persons. This cannot be properly worked out, however, until the co-ordinating committee is being set up.
    • It is expected that various societies (including the Red Cross Society), interested in the relief of refugees, will provide sufficient money to finance the scheme. It may be mentioned, for instance, that the Minister understands that the Pope has sent a sum of £20,000 to the Irish Hierarchy to finance relief for Polish Catholic refugees. It is possible, however, that if the Red Cross Society incur considerable expense in connection with refugees, they may seek financial assistance from the State at a later date.
  4. Observations of other Departments:
    The Department of Justice have sought the views of the following Departments in the matter:- Finance, Industry & Commerce, Local Government and Public Health, Education and External Affairs. The Department of External Affairs, as has been indicated, favour the admission of refugees as proposed in the preceding paragraph. The Departments of Finance, Local Government and Public Health and Education have no observations to make. The Department of Industry and Commerce are opposed to the proposal and the Minister for Industry & Commerce intends to submit a separate memorandum on the subject.8

1 See below No. 56.

2 See above footnote 1, p. 30.

3 Peadar Doyle (1877-1956), TD, Cumann na nGaedheal (1923-37) and Fine Gael (1937-56), Lord Mayor of Dublin (1941-3; 1945-6).

4 Dr. Arthur Conway (1875-1950), President of UCD (1940-7).

5 Monsignor Pádraig de Brún (1889-1960), President of UCG (1945-59).

6 Rev. Zygmunt Kaczynski (1894-1953), Minister of Education in the Polish government-in-exile during the Second World War (1943-4).

7 See above, footnote 1, p. 29.

8 See below No. 52.

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