How Australia responded to Europe's refugee crisis 66 years ago - The Sydney Morning Herald

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In 1949 asylum seekers were called displaced people and we didn't stop the boats, we let them in.

The liner Fairsea at Lee Wharf, Newcastle, ready to disembark new immigrants to Australia, many of them refugees from Europe. August 19, 1949.
The liner Fairsea at Lee Wharf, Newcastle, ready to disembark new immigrants to Australia, many of them refugees from Europe. August 19, 1949. Photo: Supplied

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First published in The Sydney Morning Herald on March 15, 1949
Former Army and Air Force camps throughout Australia are being converted into centres for the reception and accommodation of the 100,000 displaced-person migrants who are expected to arrive in the next 18 months. 
Australia is accepting displaced-person migrants at a greater rate than any other country.
 

 Arrival of displaced persons, Pyrmont, January 1947

Arrival of displaced persons, Pyrmont, January 1947 Photo: Fairfax
 

This is revealed in statistics released today by the Department of Immigration.

During February 12,509 European migrants were moved, and of this number Australia will receive 5,451.

The next highest number was 3,643 en route to the United States.

 
Arrival of displaced persons, Pyrmont, January 1947
Arrival of displaced persons, Pyrmont, January 1947 Photo: Fairfax 
 
The number coming to Australia exceeds the combined totals going to Canada, Brazil, the Argentine, and Turkey.
During the first half of this year it is probable that 35,000 displaced persons will arrive in Australia aboard 21 vessels.
The biggest intake is expected in May, when more than 9,500 European migrants will probably arrive.
Former Army and Air Force camps throughout Australia are being converted into centres for the reception and accommodation of the 100,000 displaced-person migrants who are expected to arrive in the next 18 months.
At present the Department of Immigration operates centres at Bathurst, N.S.W., and Bonegilla, Victoria, whose combined accommodation is 4,100.
All displaced-person migrants arriving in Australia go direct to these centres, where they spend about four weeks learning elementary English before being allocated to jobs throughout the Commonwealth.
Another reception centre to accommodate an additional 1,200 migrants is planned for Bonegilla.
Because of the Government's decision to bring more wives and families of migrants to Australia a number of holding centres will be established. The biggest will be at Cowra and will accommodate 2,000 persons.
Displaced-person migrants are carried in ships provided by the International Refugee Organisation.
Negotiations are proceeding to obtain an additional nine ships for the work.
These include the Charger, with a carrying capacity of 1,800, the Anna Aalen and Long Island, each of which can carry 1,300 persons, and The Skaugum, which has accommodation for 1,700.
 
355 BRITONS LEAVE 
The Minister for Immigration. Mr. A. A. Calwell, said to-day that of 20.712 British migrants brought to Australia under official schemes between March, 1947, and December, 1948, only 355 had returned.
Of this number 37 stated that the accommodation difficulty was the reason for their departure, while 29 were homesick and un- settled.
Another 16 gave dissatisfaction with their employment as the reason for their departure, while 58 others gave no reason other than that they "wanted to go home."
 
ARRIVALS TODAY
The Wooster Victory, due in Sydney from Naples to-day, is bringing 890 displaced persons from Baltic countries.
Two special trains will take the migrants to Bathurst to-night for a month's training to adapt them to life in Australia.
First published in The Sydney Morning Herald on March 15, 1949


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