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Dutch Emigration Foundation

Biographical history of the archive creator: 

The Dutch government had no active emigration policy before the Second World War. Gradually, however, by putting a brake on abuses in emigrant recruitment, its involvement in the emigration movement grew. The government understood that promoting emigration could be a solution to socioeconomic problems like the lack of arable land and unemployment among agricultural workers. The two private organisations which actively provided objective information and promoted emigration, financed in part by government subsidies, merged into the Dutch Emigration Foundation in 1931. In 1939, this semi-public authority laid the foundation for post-war emigration to Australia. In 1953, the Foundation transferred its activities to the Emigration Service and in 1955 ceased to exist.

Information booklets for the Dutch emigrant
Information booklets for the Dutch emigrant

Before 1861, if somebody chose to emigrate, he did so with his own resources. The trip itself, let alone settling in a foreign country, was a risky adventure. Although the Emigrant Passage and Transport Act offered a degree of protection after 1861, emigration long remained an individual matter or a subject of interest only to religious societies and shipping, railway and land development companies and their agents. The Netherlands Emigration Association, a private government-subsidised organisation responsible for providing objective, reliable information to future emigrants, was created in 1913 to curb abuses in the way potential emigrants were recruited. The year 1923 saw the creation of the Dutch Emigration Centre, a foundation for promoting emigration which gave emigrants an advance payment in the form of a government credit to cover the costs of the trip. The funds always had to be reimbursed. In 1931, the two organisations merged into the Dutch Emigration Foundation, whose board members included the Minister of Labour, Trade and Commerce, later the Minister of Social Affairs, and the Minister of the Interior and Agriculture, later the Minister of Economic Affairs and Labour. The Dutch Emigration Foundation was responsible for leading and coordinating emigration from the Netherlands and provided information and assistance. It maintained contacts with the emigrants and investigated the options for settlement and work in the receiving countries. Its mandate was set out in the 1936 Emigration Act.

Starting in 1936, the Dutch and Australian governments held talks about the possibilities of migration for specific professions. In 1938 the government authorised the Dutch Emigration Foundation to send an expert on a fact-finding mission to Australia who studied the organisation of Australian agriculture and horticulture. He also reported on church organisation, opportunities for bakers and industrial concerns, and scope for placing Dutch emigrants. The preparatory discussions between the Dutch and Australian governments were so advanced by 1939 that a draft agreement could be prepared. No official agreement was signed, however, as Australia wished to prevent other countries from insisting on similar provisions. The Australian government indicated its willingness to work with the Dutch Emigration Foundation. It was agreed that the Foundation would select potential emigrants in the Netherlands and set up an migrants’ organisation in Australia. Under the watchful eye of a permanent representative of the Foundation in the main ports of arrival, committees would be responsible for arranging reception, placement and after-care for the Dutch emigrants. The Foundation would also act as a guarantor and bear the costs of returning destitute migrants to the Netherlands within the first year, in exchange for which the Australian government would significantly reduce landing fees. Both the board of the Dutch Emigration Foundation and the Dutch government approved the agreements, but the start of the Second World War prevented their implementation. In 1946, a slightly revised version of the 1939 agreement was approved. The financial guarantee in case of destitution was scrapped and the Australian government determined which Dutch emigrants would ultimately be allowed to enter the country.

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