Exchange of Letters Between the President and Queen Juliana of the Netherlands Concerning Refugees.
[Released April 23, 1953. Dated April 4, 1953]
- My dear Queen Juliana:
Prince Bernhard has given me your letter of March 18, 1953 and an accompanying memorandum concerning the plight of refugees throughout the world. Your preoccupation with the challenge which refugees present to the free world at a time when your own country and people are facing so nobly the burdens of over-crowding and the disastrous effects of the recent floods, demonstrates again the compassion which Your Majesty has always shown for those in distress beyond her own borders. I share this concern with you. The United States Government stands ready at any time to consider constructive international measures to alleviate the problems presented so sympathetically in your letter and memorandum.
The refugees in Germany constitute a substantial proportion of the German population. The United States Government, in planning economic measures of assistance with the authorities of the German Federal Republic, has always taken the refugees into account. Along with the indigenous population, they have in large part contributed to and benefited from the rising level of the German economy. The achievement of economic balance and the expansion of employment opportunities in Germany have been primary objectives of United States measures of assistance to the German economy. The United States Government will persist in these efforts in collaboration with the German Federal authorities. This collaboration has been particularly close and continuous in recent months since the flow of refugees into Berlin has increased.
Your letter points out that emigration may also play a role in relieving population pressures in Germany and other countries whose governments also provide asylum for refugees. To provide opportunities for decent livelihood in countries of immigration for migrants and refugees, the United States Government has given active support to the Intergovernmental Committee for European Migration. At its forthcoming session in Geneva, the Migration Committee will give further attention to ways and means of expanding opportunities for emigration overseas.
The United States Government, under its Escapee Program, is also providing assistance in assimilation and resettlement for those who are currently fleeing from Eastern European countries into Germany, Trieste, Austria, Turkey, Italy and Greece. This assistance is supplementary to that provided by these countries of first asylum and the voluntary agencies which provide the essential human touch in their services to refugees.
Present efforts to re-establish refugees either through integration in their present countries of residence or emigration, should be intensified. I am confident that the free world will respond to meet the challenge which the refugees present not only because they are human beings whose dignity and self-respect are at stake, but because they desire with us to play their part in achieving peace and order in the world.
With expressions of great respect and warm personal esteem,
DWIGHT D. EISENHOWER
Note: Queen Juliana's letter of March 18 follows:
- My dear Mr. President,
The people of the United States have magnificently shown their warmhearted sympathy for those in our country who through the flood lost their homes and are in great distress. American help came pouring into our stricken land. Help came indeed, from all over the world, to relieve us in our dire need. With profound gratitude in our hearts we see the problem of our homeless solved on a world basis by one spontaneous move of generosity from peoples and governments alike. This generous support has been of great material, and also of immeasurable moral help to us.
Sympathy for the victims of distress is well known to be a great American tradition. I feel justified, therefore, to ask for your warm attention to the problem of those who became homeless by persecution: the refugees of the entire world.
I appeal to you for personally taking the lead in solving this ever increasing world problem on a world basis. I strongly feel that this problem is one of the most dangerous and tragic elements in an uncertain future.
I am aware that in the past year, through international effort generously supported by the United States Government, a great many refugees have found a new home, but the problem is still far from solved. Thousands of new refugees, mostly in circumstances of great distress and often in a state of mental despair are in need of our help.
There are still over 400,000 refugees living in camps in Europe. Tens of thousands of refugees are fleeing from the Eastern Zone of Germany into West Berlin. There are still many thousands of refugees elsewhere in the world. A concerted international action is therefore indicated.
The problem of the refugees can only be solved if they are given opportunities to resettle in new countries, or if they are assimilated in their countries of present residence.
Mass resettlement schemes, however, are seriously hampered at the present time, because in various countries of immigration refugees are not given enough economic opportunities. Moreover, in certain European countries, like my own, the pressure of surplus population leaves little room for absorbing them.
Unless legislation in the countries of immigration specifically permits the entry of refugees and their families, including those in destitute circumstances, it is to be feared only very small numbers of refugees will get a chance to emigrate.
A new approach is necessary, therefore, which opens large opportunities for immigration and also creates the necessary economic conditions permitting the assimilation of refugees in the countries of their present residence.
Efforts to stimulate this assimilation are at the present time being made in several countries, in particular through the operation of an important grant from an American foundation, in close cooperation between the Governments concerned and the Voluntary Agencies working on behalf of the refugees. However, private agencies do not dispose of the necessary resources. Governmental action will be necessary to open credit facilities for all those refugees who are only too willing to support and house themselves if they are given the initial opportunity to regain their independence.
These aspects should receive due attention whenever plans are made to promote the economic development and stability of the world. Neglecting them means that tens of thousands of refugees are condemned to live in camps without any hope for the future for many more years. Such a tragedy, if it were to occur, would destroy the faith in the privileges of freedom not only of the refugees themselves, but also of their kinsmen whom they have left behind.
Discontentment, frustration and even despair is felt by millions of uprooted people, dislocated all over the world. The free world cannot tolerate so much suffering in its midst without having to suffer itself.
To preserve their human dignity and restore their self respect, the right psychological and spiritual approach is of overriding importance. How could refugees ever trust free society if it shows interest only for trained muscles or brains, but lacks respect for the higher values of life; if it looks at refugees only as labor potential, and refuses those who cannot work; if it separates them from their families?
It is my conviction that the refugee problem should be tackled in the shortest possible time in its entirety.
The Netherlands will be glad to cooperate in any planning and, within the practical limits of its capacities, in any constructive effort to arrive at results.
Although I fully understand the multitude and magnitude of the problems confronting you, I had to lay this matter of ever-growing importance before you, conscious of the responsibility of all for all, a responsibility which in the plight of the Netherlands the entire world has accepted and lived up to in such an impressive way. In all humility we saw the lesson of loving one's neighbor being observed in a world otherwise so deeply disturbed by international strife.
I am confident you will find the right approach to this problem. May it be given you to solve it. Thus world peace will gain.
Dwight D. Eisenhower, Exchange of Letters Between the President and Queen Juliana of the Netherlands Concerning Refugees. Online by Gerhard Peters and John T. Woolley, The American Presidency Project https://www.presidency.ucsb.edu/node/231662