398.18 PICMME/1–2852

Memorandum by Commissioner Rosenfield to the Chairman of the Displaced Persons Commission (Gibson)1


Future Legislative Picture—Conferences with Ambassador Dunn in Rome and Count Giusti, Italian Minister of Emigration.

I had conferences with Ambassador Dunn and Count Giusti, in Rome, on January 3, 1952, on the problem of refugees and overpopulation in Italy. In both instances, I was accompanied by Miss G. Mayerson, Senior Officer, and Mr. George Wellde, Information Officer.

Ambassador Dunn’s views were as follows:

1. Displaced Persons

He is interested in those left. He said that in addition to the 27,000 still registered with IRO, there is another 28,000 unregistered, or a total of some 55,000 (this total does not include Trieste’s problems). Most of these people, he feels, are not absorbed into the Italian economy. The only present hope for them that he sees is PICMME. Italy, he said, was satisfied with the very real movements from and through Italy in the last one and one-half years. It was willing to care for a hard-core remnant up to some 6,000, but 55,000 was beyond its means. Therefore, he saw the need of moving some 50,000 of this group of displaced persons and non-Italians.

2. Venezia Giulia

He said that “we can’t do anything about” the 150,000 Venezia Giulians who are a burden on the Italian economy.

I asked whether we ought to extend the present VG program under Section 2(g).2 He said: “No”, don’t reopen the situations of those who have settled. He felt that if we can’t take the whole 150,000 we should not take any of them. This group of 150,000, he said, was one with which the Italian government would have to cope. This 150,000 gets into general overpopulation issue, and on this—to use his own words—he “would not do anything to give special consideration to people not as Italian as the real Italians.”

3. Trieste

However, he did suggest that on the same principle as Section 2(g) but without regard to date of arrival, we admit 2,000 of the [Page 1566] recent arrivals in Trieste (who might be called VGs) for the purpose of relieving AMG in Trieste.

He said people are piling up in Trieste, and that there are some 3,500–4,000 refugees (not all Istrians or VGs) there. Tito, he said, is pushing people out into Trieste, for fear of foreigners. Dunn was most interested in emigrating the Istrians and thought an authorization of 2,000 would be sufficient. But he said AMG might want to do more. He specifically stated that he would rather I obtain AMG’s views, rather than his, on Trieste because the VGs and others in Trieste were a separate problem from the VGs and others in Italy.

4. Overpopulation

Dunn said there were 2,000,000 unemployed, and that there were economic difficulties in Italy, especially in the south of Italy. In addition, there were many only partially employed (100 days per year) at low rates of pay. Italy has an annual increment of 450,000 people, or some 200,000 to 250,000 workers. He thought Giusti’s figures (see below) were too conservative.

He informed me that DeGasperi made a strong plea on this subject to the President and Acheson. The President listened but said nothing. The Secretary of State said we were interested and would do everything possible for an international organization. However, Acheson continued that so far as immigration to the United States was concerned, we could not make any real dent on the numbers in view of the general immigration situation.

Dunn thought Celler’s3 bill for 50,000 in five years was “a good idea, but doesn’t scratch the surface”. “The Italians are a good element and you would get good people.” He expressly said he would voice no opinion on the domestic political feasibility of admitting them.

The major purport of his remarks on Italian overpopulation, however, was that it was primarily a European problem and not an overseas one. He saw it possessing world implications, but several times reiterated his conviction that something be done about it on a continental basis. He expressed displeasure at the failure of western Europe to do anything about it. “It is criminal”, he said, “that more has not been done by Italy itself—it is the most important thing that can be done in Italy. It has too many people.”

He said, for example, that France alone could take two million Italians, and that Belgium and England needed and could use Italians. In France, it was largely, he said, a prohibition on Italians remitting funds to their families in Italy. England took 600 miners, [Page 1567] but the unions opposed it. He thought that perhaps a European Federation would bring it about.

I returned to the possibility of an overseas solution. He was “afraid that if we think only of overseas countries, it would be too costly and that therefore we would get no results.”

What was his solution? I asked.

Dunn proposed, as follows:

1. Continuation of PICMME. He felt that all concerned would be more inclined to act if there was an instrumentality of international cooperation.

2. Creation of a special committee of outstanding citizens (after the mould of Paul Hoffman, he said) from each of the free countries of Europe, to get to work on this problem in a practical and realistic way as a matter of their mutual defense. He stressed the need for people with stature in their own countries, and not merely career diplomats.

“Keep it out of the hands of the technicians,” he insisted, “or civil servants.” He felt certain that such a group of men would come up with a solution which would be accepted by their own nations. He even suggested a person for Italy: Senator Merzagera of Milan, a banker and formerly Minister of Overseas Trade in 1946.

He felt that OEEC could do the job, but thought that NATO ought not be involved in it because of the civilian character of the problem.

At the present, and in the absence of such a committee, Italian overpopulation, he said, is like Mark Twain’s weather: everyone talks about it but no one does anything.

3. Such a committee would work out a basic plan, in keeping with the basic pattern that requires a European continental solution. Then, he thought, the U.S. and Latin America would “fill it out”.

I asked: “What do you conceive the United States’ role to be?” He answered: a) financial help on costs of movement in small proportion, since it was a European problem; b) legislation for immigration to the United States “if only as an educational feature”. He repeated here “it is primarily a continental problem, and we can get things moving first in France.”

In terms of American legislation, he stressed the great importance of quota change legislation for Italian good-will and as a real weapon v. communism. The communists are opposed to emigration “even 7,000 to 8,000 has tremendous importance”. The Walter [Page 1568] voting bill4 “had terrific effect” and Celler’s visit5 “did a lot of good”. “But we need action,” he concluded.

Count Giust’s views were as follows:

Italy needs to emigrate 200,000 persons a year for five years. “IRO was a good start.”
Italy has 1 ½ to 2 million unemployed, plus the same number of half-employed, especially in agriculture.
Other solutions to problem won’t solve it now:
“a lot of people in Italy are going on road of birth control,” but that is a solution for the next, not the present, generation,
possibility of investments for economic development is hampered by Italy’s lack of coal, oil, and other resources,
modernization of agriculture would only result in (at least, short range) unemployment.

(4) Therefore immigration was necessary.

From the end of World War II, 800,000 persons emigrated at an annual average of some 160,000–170,000 persons. With pressure, he thought this could be raised to 200,000.

PICMME could account for some 30,000 to 40,000. Perhaps there was some possibility of 10,000 to 20,000 a year to British mines. But Italy’s need is 400,000 to 500,000 emigrants a year. Therefore he saw a deficit of some 200,000 to 250,000 per year.

(5) There were two possibilities, he said:

underdeveloped countries, such as South America and Africa. But this needed money, and he was pessimistic about its availability,
immigration to the U.S. The Italian quota was “ridiculous”. U.S. needs manpower. He felt it was necessary to find any possibility of transferring Italian manpower to U.S. thru:
special legislation
use of quotas unused during the war
a generalized NATO quota. “If we must die together, we must also live together.”

[Page 1569]

(6) “Every Italian immigrant to the U.S. means five votes in Italy against communism.” At present, Togliatti is complaining that there is no immigration; as soon as there is, he would oppose it because it means votes against communism and because it decreases tensions in Italy.

(7) Italian Migration Plans to Other Countries

No fixed number. Australia decides on number every six months. He estimated it would be some 30,000 to 35,000 per year. They are taking only single men now.
medical selection requirements on family members too rigid,
union restrictions on apprenticeship and training,
political screening. He derided efforts to screen. “The really dangerous ones go by diplomatic ways.” Although 4,000,000 Italians voted communist, there are not that many communists—only 300,000, and they have a file on every one. Unless they are among that 300,000, “practically not a dangerous communist.” Communist party membership totals 1,000,000. However, he insisted that lots of people join all the Italian parties as a defense mechanism.
Very little, and just beginning. At most, 25,000 next year.
Social conditions and standard of living was very bad for unskilled labor, though O.K. for skilled.
Costs $5,000 to transfer family to Latin America. Later in the conversation he said it cost $1,000 per person, including shipment and economic development, but excluding cost of land.
However, he pointed out that this cost is mitigated by fact that once a family migrates it itself brings over its own relative.
I asked why Italy and Brazil did not collaborate on a request for a developmental loan from the International Bank just as Australia had done. His answer was an embarrassed: perhaps the Australian political situation is further advanced, and international controls.
Perhaps 20,000 to 25,000 per year. But there is a political question there.
Can get 100,000 people into Sardinia but that would end it. If got 100,000 people into Brazil, they would bring over another 100,000.

  1. Also sent to Commissioner O’Connor.
  2. Reference is to Section 2(g) of the Displaced Persons Act as amended by the Act of June 16, 1950 (Public Law 81–555). This section extended the definition of “an eligible displaced person” to include certain residents of Venezia Giulia who on or after May 6, 1945, departed from those parts of Venezia Giulia placed under Yugoslav sovereignty or administration under the terms of the Treaty of Peace with Italy signed on Feb. 10, 1947. For text, see 64 Stat. 219.
  3. Representative Emanuel Celler (D.–N.Y.).
  4. Reference is to the act of Aug. 16, 1951 (Public Law 81–114) sponsored by Representative Francis E. Walter (R.-Pa.) which provided for the expeditious naturalization of former U.S. citizens who had lost their citizenship solely by voting in a political election or plebiscite held in Italy between Jan. 1, 1946, and Apr. 18, 1948. For text, see 65 Stat. 191.
  5. Representative Celler was in Italy Dec. 2–11, 1951. During the course of his visit, he made a number of statements indicating that he would seek legislation expanding the categories of expatriated Americans who would be eligible for repatriation, modifying the immigration regulations of the Internal Security Act, allowing the admission of 50,000 Italian immigrants into the United States over a period of 5 years, and authorizing an additional $10 million for direct aid to the flood victims of northern Italy. Documentation concerning this visit is in Department of State file 033.1100 CE for 1951.