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African Territories (Migrant Labour)

Volume 437: debated on Friday 9 May 1947

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asked the Secretary of State for the Colonies (1) whether he will give an assurance that any agreement covering the recruitment of workers in Nyasaland for employment in the Rhodesias will include a Clause placing upon the employer or upon the Government of the territory concerned the obligation to repatriate the worker;(2) whether he will give figures for the territories of East and Central Africa to show the numbers of workers seeking employment outside their own territory; the average length of time they stay away; and how many remain away permanently;(3) what recommendations on migrant labour have been made by the Central African Council; and whether he will give an assurance that workers from Nyasaland will not be encouraged to take their wives and families with them to the Rhodesias, unless they have a contract of employment before starting.

I am sending him him a copy of the published statement issued by the Central African Council in regard to the recommendations made by its Special Committee on Migrant Labour. These recommendations have been accepted by the three Governments concerned and are incorporated in a new Inter-Territorial Agreement, which I have welcomed as an admirable and progressive contribution towards the solution of this difficult problem. The Agreement will provide for the repatriation of workers after a period not exceeding two years, as well as for deferred pay and family remittances, adequate housing, food and medical services, and adequate inspectorate staff. Having regard to the safeguards and protection to be afforded to the migrant worker under the new Agreement, the Council felt that the advantages accruing to the worker accompanied by his family justified special provisions in the Agreement for workers wishing to establish themselves with their families in the neighbourhod of their employment. The Council also considered that to prohibit emigration for work except on a long-term contract of employment executed before departure might be regarded as an interference with individual liberties and might not always be in the best interest of the workers. Provision will, however, be made in the Agreement for the continuation of the present facilities for migrant workers who desire to enter into such a contract. I would refer my hon. Friend to the full and lucid analysis of these questions in the published statement.Reliable statistics on migrant labour are not ascertainable, but estimated figures of the numbers involved in the Central African Territories are given in the statement. The general habit of the migrant worker is to return to his own country after a comparatively short absence of one or two years, though a number which cannot be precisely stated may remain permanently in the country of employment. Migration of labour from the British East African territories is inconsiderable and does not constitute a problem; rather, there tends to be an inward flow of workers from neighbouring non-British territories. If my hon. Friend requires any further information regarding this agreement, I shall be glad to arrange for this to be supplied to him.