§ 43. Mr. A. WILLIAMS
asked the Prime Minister what response the Supreme Council has made to the appeal of the International Red Cross Committee for the repatriation of Austro-Hungarian prisoners in Siberia and Turkestan; whether of the 450,000 such prisoners who were detained in Siberia and Turkestan only 240,000 remain alive; whether this 1033 remainder are dying rapidly of privation and disease; and, if BO, what steps it is proposed to take?
§ 49. Lieut.-Colonel Sir S. HOARE
asked the Prime Minister whether it is possible to take any steps to facilitate the repatriation of the Austrian prisoners in Siberia and Central Asia?
§ Sir HAMAR GREENWOOD
As regards the first part of the question, the Supreme Economic Council recently submitted the question of the relief and repatriation of ex-enemy prisoners of war to the Council of the League of Nations, as being the body best qualified to render assistance in countries where His Majesty's Government and other Governments concerned are not represented.
The hon. Member may rest assured that His Majesty's Government will render all the assistance in their power to make effective any decisions taken by the Council of the League.
With regard to the second part of the question, His Majesty's Government have no reliable information regarding the numbers of prisoners; the immense area over which the prisoners are distributed and the instability of conditions have rendered it quite impossible to obtain reliable statistics.
As regards the third part of the question, though reports have been somewhat contradictory, it is undoubtedly true that the prisoners in Siberia have suffered the greatest hardships and that the death-rate has been very high. As Turkestan has throughout been in the hands of the Bolsheviks, His Majesty's Government have no information regarding the condition of prisoners there. An Austrian Mission is at present in Turkestan, with a view to affording relief to the prisoners and arranging for their repatriation. This Mission will receive any assistance which His Majesty's Government is in a position to render.
Is it not a fact that Admiral Koltchak repeatedly advised the Allies to repatriate these prisoners at least a year ago, and that the Allies have stated their inability to do so from want of shipping?
§ Colonel WEDGWOOD
Is it not a fact that America offered shipping for repatriating prisoners, and is it not a fact that we have no control over these prisoners, and that since the revolution in Vladivostock and Siberia the question of repatriation of these prisoners must be one between the German and Austrian Governments and the Soviet Government in Russia, and is a matter in which the Allies can do nothing?
§ Sir H. GREENWOOD
Of course, it is true that we have no control over prisoners in territory now under the control of the Bolshevist authorities.