asked the Secretary of State for the Colonies how long the 1,300 British-Maltese refugees who arrived at Malta from Tripoli on board the steamer "Castlegarth" on 1st October were prevented by the authorities from landing; what was the reason for their detention; whether he has any information as to the circumstances attending their departure without sufficient food or water or adequate shelter; and, if so, will he communicate the same to the House?
§ The SECRETARY of STATE for the COLONIES (Mr. Harcourt)
The period of detention of the refugees appears to have been about fourteen hours, namely, from midnight until some time after noon. The reason for their not being allowed to land immediately was that it was necessary to hold a post-mortem on the body of a child which had died on the voyage. It was feared that the cause of its death was cholera, and, had the post-mortém confirmed this fear, the refugees would have had to be taken to Comino, where there is a cholera hospital, instead of being allowed to land at Malta. I understand that the "Castlegarth," which is a trading ship, and was taking in cargo at Tripoli, was boarded by Maltese refugees, desirous of escaping the bombardment, while she was lying off the port. Subsequently the master was informed by the Italian Consul-General that the port was blockaded, and he was thus unable to land the refugees at Tripoli. He therefore judged that the only course was to take them to Malta. The ship was only 1,670 tons burden, and it was impossible either to accommodate or feed 1,300 refugees in an adequate manner during the twenty-six hours' voyage.
§ Colonel YATE
Why were not arrangements made to get away these unfortunate women and children before the bombardment, instead of leaving them to escape as best they could by a trading steamer?
§ Mr. HARCOURT
That is a question which ought to have been addressed to the Secretary of State for Foreign Affairs, and any further information should be sought from him.