Carlos Arredondo, Carlos, Arredondo, Chile, Scotland, music, poetry, culture, Latin America  


In 1974 a group of charities and activist groups formed the JWG to help Chileans refugees. They never left us alone. They provided us with relevant information in our own language.

Chileans Refugees were never an isolated group and this was thanks to the good work of the many Chilean Solidarity Committee in Britain, the Joint Working Group. (J.W.G.) and many Labour MPs.

The honorary presidents of the Chilean Solidarity Committee in Stirling were Labour MPs: Dennis Canavan, Harry Ewing and Martin O’Neill. These three Labour MPs were formidable in providing a united voice, against Pinochet’s Chile, at Westminster on behalf of the very active Stirling Chile Solidarity Committee. In reality on behalf of us all.

I remember from this era that Chileans used to receive, and on a regular basis, well presented information from London, produced by the Chilean Joint Working Group. They always kept in touch with us and informed us about: the social, the economic and political situation in Chile, the relationship between them and us and the Government’s policies affecting people like them, us and our country. I highly regarded the J.W.G. because they showed themselves to be a serious organisation working extraordinarily hard on our behalf. I have a good collection of J.W.G. documents and information about them. Thanks to the work of the J.W.G. I never felt, during my time of exile, lonely or left alone. As a group of refugee were never abandoned or left struggling to our own devices. (this is my view)

On the 15th of November of 1978 Dennis Canavan on behalf of the Stirling Solidarity Committee (Stirling & District Chile Solidarity Committee) wrote to Merlyn Rees at the Home Office about fears of cutting back funds for the JWG and other related matters. The Under-Secretary of the State at the Home Office wrote back to Dennis the following letter:

Home Office 4th January, 1979

Thank you for your letter of the 15th November to Merlyn Rees enclosing a copy of one from the Secretary of the Stirling & District Chile Solidarity Committee about grant to the joint Working Group for Chilean Refugees.

May I first correct a misconception which seems to have arisen over the amount of the grant. As you may be aware it has been agreed that the VSU should make a grant of £137.500 for the work of the Joint Working Group during the financial year 1st April 1978 to 31st march 1979. In addition a special (and non-repeatable) grant of £ 11.000 for 1978/79 only is to be made by the Ministry of Overseas Development to help meet the cost of refugees’ travel to and from English classes. Whilst I accept that the total grant is less than the amount requested by the Join working group it nonetheless represents a sizeable increase over the grant of £119,000 for 1977/78 and not a cut as you were informed.

You will also be aware from the press that we are making funds available to assist voluntary organizations in dealing with the sudden influx of about 350 Vietnamese who were recently rescued on the high seas by a British registered vessel. I mention this only to underline the fact that, while we wish to do all in our power to help these unfortunately people, the potential call on government funds could be very great, and we must limit our help to dealing with immediate and special problems particularly during the early days after they have come to this country.

The level of grant for the Joint Working Group for Chileans (as for voluntary organisations) is calculated on this basis. While the voluntary organisations may wish to do more than this, as far as the government is concerned, it is right for refugees (as for other disadvantaged group) to rely on the normal statutory services thereafter. In response to a request from the Joint Working Group a meeting was recently held with officials from Voluntary Services Unit and various points raised at the meeting are being followed up.

Your Sincerely Shirley (Dr Shirley Summerskill)



  Carlos Arredondo, Carlos, Arredondo, Chile, Scotland, music, poetry, culture, Latin America