HC Deb 01 November 1911 vol 30 cc844-6

asked the Secretary of State for the Colonies whether his attention has been called to the suffering to which 1,300 British Maltese refugees were subjected during their voyage from Tripoli to Malta on the steamer "Castlegarth"; whether four of the refugees lost their reason during the voyage and a child died for want of nutrition; whether, when the "Castlegarth" entered the port of Malta at 11 p.m. on 1st October, the passengers were not allowed to land, but were left without food or drink and at the mercy of inclement weather until 2 p.m. on the afternoon of the following day; whether, previous to the annuoncement of the bombardment, the Maltese colony at Tripoli had asked the Vice-Consul there and had telegraphed to the Malta Government for the dispatch of warships, which, had they been sent, might have conveyed the colonists safely to Malta without trouble; and whether he will cause inquiries to be made into the cause of this delay and suffering?


I have heard with much regret of the sufferings of these refugees, and I am glad to learn that those of them who are without means and friends are being cared for by the Government of Malta. I am aware that one child died on the voyage, but the cause of death has not been reported to me, nor have I heard that any of the refugees have lost their reason. I have caused inquiries to be made as to the length of time which elapsed before the refugees were permitted to land, and as to the reason for their detention. The suggestion was made from several quarters that His Majesty's Government should send a ship for the protection of British subjects in Tripoli, but having regard to all the circumstances it was not thought advisable to do so.


asked the Secretary of State for Foreign Affairs whether he is aware that, consequent upon the hasty departure of Maltese colonists from Tripoli, the property which they were compelled to leave behind was pillaged by Arabs and that the harvests of the Maltese have been reaped by natives; whether His Majesty's Government intend to make representations to the Italian Government with a view to securing compensation for all British subjects who have suffered damage through the present war; and whether in the meantime, His Majesty's Government intend following the precedent established during the bombardment of Alexandria, creating a local Maltese committee to help refugees who are still in the island, or who have been taken back to Tripoli, and giving to such committee all the power vested in the Malta Egyptian Committee of 1884?


His Majesty's Government have been informed that, on the withdrawal of the Turkish troops from Tripoli, the country people pillaged a number of shops and stores in that town. I have not yet been informed how far Maltese were affected, but will inquire. I am not aware that the harvests of the Maltese have been reaped by natives. No claims for compensation have yet been received; but if any are received they shall be considered on their merits, and I shall examine the principle on which His Majesty's Government dealt with claims arising out of the South African war, with the view of securing its application in this case. At present the refugees are being cared for by the Maltese Government; and, if it should eventually be found desirable, the question of appointing local committees will no doubt be considered.