British Government and the European Voluntary Worker Programmes : the post-war refugee crisis, contract labour and political asylum, 1945-1965
Maslen, Hywel Gordon
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This thesis seeks to develop a fresh approach on immigration history in post-war Britain by focusing on public administration in a contract labour programme. The orthodox approach towards studies of immigration has been to concentrate upon the outcomes of state activity rather than the process. Consequently the experiences and reactions of volunteer workers have received much attention. This thesis offers new perspectives based on an analysis of the frameworks developed to deliver the Displaced Persons and European Voluntary Worker programmes after the Second World War. It is argued that the mundane aspects of government bureaucracy, normally unremarkable and unimportant, are indeed crucial to an understanding of how post-war labour and refugee policies were managed. With an abundance of government records extant, it is feasible to revise an important chapter of immigration history by exploring the architecture of public administration in an era of expanding bureaucracy. This study analyses the techniques and systems deployed by civil servants to provide a clearer understanding of the organisational character of a contract labour scheme that also granted political asylum to refugees. Although some political ambitions guiding the programmes were questionable, the method of their delivery suggests greater consideration was given towards participants than has previously been claimed. Emphasis is given to the origins of the immigration schemes within the wider framework of state activity, and towards the government machinery and resources available to implement policy. The state expanded dramatically during the Second World War and the civil service gained invaluable experience in managing complex new tasks. By analysing the application of this knowledge, it is possible to gain an insight into the culture of bureaucracy, explore how projects involving tens of thousands of individuals were conducted, and how the programmes affected the frame of reference of civil servants overseeing immigration and political asylum.