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South Africa (British Emigrants)

Volume 886: debated on Wednesday 19 February 1975

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8.

asked the Secretary of State for Foreign and Commonwealth Affairs what was the amount paid out by his Department in the last year for which figures are available of repatriation of British citizens who emigrated to South Africa and who wished to return to this country; what amount of this was recovered; and if he will make a statement.

During the year ended 31st March 1974, £5,608·88 was expended on the repatriation of United Kingdom citizens who had emigrated to South Africa. Of this, £526·58 has been recovered.

If British citizens are to be tempted to a life of game reserves and black housemaids by the South African Government, why should the British taxpayer have to pay for them to come back if they do not like it? If British citizens are to be lured by the South African Government with free passages and false promises, should we not make it clear that they do so at their own risk?

First, we do not supply public funds to people solely because they do not like the country in which they have chosen to live. We take the view that people who are destitute in a foreign country, whether it be South Africa or anywhere else—for example, widows—have compassionate claims on the British Government to ensure that they return to this country. My hon. Friend is well aware that I share his view about people who emigrate to South Africa to bolster up the régime.

Let us put the matter into perspective cost-wise. Has the Minister any figures today—if not perhaps she will make them available to the House—to indicate what percentage of British people who leave this country each year express a wish to come back with or without the help of British funds?

I do not have that information available. If the hon. Gentleman cares to table a specific Question I shall find the information for him.