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Poles, Westphalia

Volume 446: debated on Wednesday 28 January 1948

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asked the Secretary of State for Foreign Affairs why British occupation authorities have refused permission to Poles living in Westphalia to return to Poland.

My hon. Friend is presumably referring to people in the British zone of Polish descent whose ancestors emigrated from Poland in the last century. They are German citizens of the third and fourth generation, and it is, therefore, a question not of repatriation but of emigration, as to which they have no more legal right than any other German citizens. Nevertheless, the British occupation authorities are allowing individual German citizens of Polish origin to go to Poland now, provided they are not engaged in essential employment, a phrase which is interpreted liberally.

Whilst I am sure my right hon. Friend's reply will be very welcome, may I urge upon him, in view of the very overcrowded state of Westphalia and the British zone generally, to be as liberal as possible in the interpretation of his reply?

We are attempting to be liberal and compassionate, but my hon. Friend must remember that other factors than overcrowding operate here. For example, as the hon. Lady knows, the distribution of people returned to us has plainly not been even, and there is a scarcity of able-bodied people fit for work.