27 FEBRUARY 1948, Page 2

The Economics of Refuge

The case for accepting refugees from foreign countries is based on their value as productive and industrious citizens, as well as on the humane duty to give political and religious asylum. The economic wisdom of this policy has been demonstrated over and over again in English history and even more strikingly by American industry. But if the refugees are a financial incubus the strain on humane motives is heavier, and in the case of poor countries it may become too great to be borne. It was this which led the Select Corn- mince on Estimates to point out that continuance of the burden on the British taxpayer at the rate of L129,800,000 in three years for the support of foreign nationals was not merely unjust, but impossible. This is, in fact, one of the many matters in which this country must break itself of the habit of behaving as if it were wealthy: There can be no reasonable quarrel with reducing the expenditure on dis- placed Poles in particular as quickly as possible. Indeed, it is not apparent from the Committee's Report why so many Polish soldiers now in this country should have to wait for reunion with their families, now in East Africa, before returning to Poland. They are willing to go anyway. Why should they not proceed to Poland separately ? But caution must be exercised lest such arguments as these should degenerate into mere xenophobia or be misused by Communists whose reasons for attacking refugees are of a crudely political nature and whose influence, through the trade unions, in delaying the employment of foreigners in the mines and elsewhere has already done untold harm. There is no prima facie case for repelling any refugee, provided that he can do useful work and avoid becoming a burden on the taxpayer. But if any demonstration is needed that Britain cannot afford to support unproductive and even antipathetic persons, except in the very hardest cases, this report will certainly provide it.