HC Deb 03 April 1939 vol 345 cc2455-7
75. Sir Percy Harris

asked the Home Secretary whether he will endeavour to give as sympathetic treatment as possible to political refugees who manage, with great difficulty, to get out of their country; and whether he will consider setting up a special court to deal with cases that seem to call for special consideration?

Sir S. Hoare

It is obviously desirable that the question whether an alien will be admitted to this country as a refugee should as a general rule be settled before he starts on his journey; and it would frustrate the policy of admitting selected cases if any persons claiming to be refugees could count on preferential treatment provided they manage to reach a port of arrival in this country. I recognise, however, that there are exceptional cases in which preliminary arrangements as to admission may be impracticable, and the hon. Member can be assured that if such cases occur they receive the most careful consideration. I do not think there would be any advantage in setting up a court to deal with such cases, especially as under the existing law the responsibility for a decision must rest on the Home Secretary.

Sir Archibald Sinclair

Is it true that these cases do receive consideration; and has the right hon. Gentleman seen accounts in the newspapers of people who manage to get into this country, who are then told that they must return at once, and who sometimes collapse and have to be carried back into the aeroplane, even late at night, to be taken away; and cannot the right hon. Gentleman assure the House that if a real bona fide refugee from Nazi tyranny reaches this country, he will not be sent back?

Sir S. Hoare

There is no question of sending back to Germany the refugees to whom the right hon. Gentleman refers. I could not, in answer to a supplementary question, go into the details of the case, but I will send them to the right hon. Gentleman. I can assure him that the most sympathetic consideration is given to these cases, but we must keep control over entries into this country.

Colonel Nathan

Can the right hon. Gentleman say whether there has yet been established, or whether it is proposed to establish, a visa system at Prague, or elsewhere in Czecho-Slovakia?

Sir S. Hoare

Yes, Sir, a visa system has just been established, and I think the establishment of that visa system will avoid the recurrence of cases of the kind to which the right hon. Gentleman has referred.

Mr. Edmund Harvey

Has the right hon. Gentleman considered the possibility of establishing some arrangements like those at Ellis Island, for the temporary accommodation of some of these difficult cases, instead of having to return them at once?

Sir S. Hoare

Yes, Sir, I have considered that proposal, and on the whole I should be sorry to see it adopted. The more I go into the details of this matter, the more I am sure that it would not answer the purpose which we have in mind, and it might lead to bringing here a number of people who would remain, so to speak, like a stagnant pool, and I wish to avoid that.