§ 30. Colonel Wedgwood
asked the Secretary of State for the Colonies whether he has considered the protest from the Jewish agency to the High Commissioner for Palestine against the new immigration Ordinance; whether it is intended to persist with this Ordinance in spite of this protest and in spite of the recent change in our foreign policy; and whether he will circulate copies of the Ordinance?
Mr. M. MacDonald
I have received the protest to which the right hon. Member refers. The Ordinance was enacted to provide for the continuance of the temporary arrangements for the control of immigration pending the publication of His Majesty's Government's decisions on future policy; and there is no intention to 1124 alter the Ordinance. I have not yet received a copy of it, but will place one in the Library of the House when it arrives.
§ Colonel Wedgwood
Were the Jews consulted in the preparation of this Ordinance which they are expected to obey?
§ Mr. T. Williams
May I ask whether in the Ordinance which is supposed to determine the maximum number for a certain period, special consideration has been given to the peculiar position in Europe at the moment?
§ Mr. Williams
Is this Ordinance irremovable, or if the circumstances are such, can it be modified if it is desirable?
Nothing is absolutely unchangeable, but I have no reason to suppose that circumstances will arise which would determine us to alter the Ordinance.
§ Colonel Wedgwood
Was it borne in mind when this Ordinance was being drafted that the Jews would not obey it?
§ 31. Colonel Wedgwood
asked the Secretary of State for the Colonies why the Palestine Government, in spite of the international situation and the persecution of the Jews, is intensifying a campaign against the entry of Jews in Palestine; whether he is aware that two new armed launches and additional coastguards have been provided to stop illegal immigration of Jews, and at whose cost are these measures undertaken?
As the answer is rather long, I will, with the right hon. Member's permission, circulate it in the Official Report.
§ Following is the answer:
§ Legal Jewish immigration into Palestine is continuing at the rate of approximately 1,000 a month. His Majesty's Government have every sympathy with Jewish 1125 refugees. But during recent months there have been a number of attempts by foreign ships to land illegal Jewish immigrants on the Palestine coast, and it has been found necessary to take special measures to suppress this illegal traffic. The coastguard service in Palestine has been strengthened and a system of marine police patrols is being organised. The cost of these measures will be met by the Palestine Government. Pending the organisation of the local preventive service arrangements are being made for a naval patrol to be provided as a temporary measure. In addition, the High Commissioner has been authorised to strengthen the provisions of the immigration ordinance relating to the stoppage and forfeiture of suspected vessels and the imposition of penalties on ship owners.
§ His Majesty's Government take a most serious view of these attempts to contravene the immigration law of Palestine and are determined to check illegal immigration. The High Commissioner for Palestine has been authorised to announce that the numbers of any Jewish illegal immigrants who, despite the measures which I have mentioned, may succeed in entering the country and who cannot be de ported will be deducted from future immigration quotas.
§ 32. Mr. Mander
asked the Secretary of State for the Colonies whether, in the light of our new obligations to Poland and Rumania and with a view to consolidating the British position in the Eastern Mediterranean, he will consider the question of admitting to Palestine as many Jews as possible in accordance with economic absorptive capacity from these two countries?
His Majesty's Govern-are considering the question of Jewish immigration into Palestine in the light of the discussions at the recent London Conferences, and I cannot anticipate the statement regarding future policy which will be made in due course.
§ Mr. Mander
Can the right hon. Gentleman say whether the question of Jewish immigration was discussed during the recent visits of the Rumanian and Polish Foreign Ministers?
That is another matter, which perhaps should not be addressed 1126 to me. Perhaps the hon. Member will put that question on the Order Paper.
§ Mr. Mander
Does not the right hon. Gentleman consider that our new obligations towards Rumania and Poland make it necessary for us to reconsider our policy with regard to this matter?
§ 44. Mr. Noel-Baker
asked the Secretary of State for the Colonies whether he can make a statement concerning the refusal of the authorities at Haifa to allow 270 refugees to land from the steamship "Assimi"?
§ 52. Mr. T. Williams
asked the Secretary of State for the Colonies whether he has any statement to make concerning the two ships which arrived at Haifa recently; whether the passengers have been sent back to their respective countries; and what steps were taken to ascertain the conditions as regards food, clothing, and sleeping accommodation?
§ 53 and 54. Colonel Wedgwood
asked the Secretary of State for the Colonies (1) how many Jews have been prevented from landing in Palestine between 15th February and 15th April; in how many ships they came; where the illegal emigrants were sent to; how many have been imprisoned; how many are to be deported; and what steps are taken to see that returned ships are supplied with food and water?
(2) whether he can make a statement as to the taking, detention, and the sailing of the Greek ship "Astir," with 700 refugees on board from Germany, mostly Czech refugees, including 100 women and 50 children, which arrived at Haifa on 5th April; what steps were taken by the Palestine Government to see that these refugees were provided with food and water; and what other shiploads have been treated in the same way in Palestine?
Since the reply is long, I will, with the hon. Members' permission, circulate it in the OFFICIAL REPORT.
§ Mr. Noel-Baker
Since these refugees are suffering in a most appalling manner, can the right hon. Gentleman tell us to what destination they are being returned 1127 when they are refused admission to Palestine?
§ Mr. Noel-Baker
Does this mean that the refugees are, in fact, being sent back to the concentration camps?
The responsibility in this matter must rest on those who are organising this traffic in illegal immigration.
§ Mr. T. Williams
In view of the brutal treatment of these refugees by the Germans, does not the right hon. Gentleman think that there ought to have been an official welcome to the refugees instead of sending them back to Germany?
Palestine is making its contribution to the relief of the Jewish refugee problem, but there is a point beyond which it cannot go. If we were to countenance the reception of one shipload of illegal immigrants into Palestine, we should at once find that we were faced with a problem with which we could not possibly cope.
§ Mr. Williams
In view of the abnormal conditions of the moment, and the fact that a limit for immigration has been imposed, could not the Government in such cases as these exercise clemency and decency towards those refugees who are trying to escape from the Nazi administration?
His Majesty's Government have sincerely every sympathy with the Jewish refugees, but I am certain that the House will appreciate that if we had in any of these cases done as the hon. Member suggests, we should have invited many shiploads of illegal immigrants into Palestine. We should not be able to draw the line at any stage.
§ Sir A. Sinclair
While recognising that there must be a limit to the contribution which Palestine can make to the solution of this problem, cannot the right hon. Gentleman assure us that, in this critical time, the contribution of Palestine will be up to the limit of the economic absorptive capacity of the country?
The House is well aware of the principles which are govern- 1128 ing the temporary immigration into Palestine, and I cannot add anything to previous statements.
§ Following is the reply:
§ 1,229 illegal Jewish immigrants in all were prevented from landing in Palestine during the period from 15th February to 15th April. They came in three ships, and particulars of the cases are as follow:
- (1). 269 Jews were prevented from landing from the Steamship "Sandu" on 21st March. The vessel with all its passengers was ordered to return to Constanza, its port of departure, and escorted to the limit of Palestine territorial waters on 25th March after being supplied with food for five days by the Jewish Agency and with drinking water by the port authorities. No illegal immigrants were imprisoned.
- (2)710 Jews (698 of them being Germans) were prevented from landing from the Steam ship "Astir" on 2nd April. The vessel was sailing under the Greek flag and had left Piraeus early in March for the port of Reni on the Danube where, by the master's admission, the Jewish passengers were embarked with the intention of being landed clandestinely in Palestine. The Steamship "Astir" was ordered to return to Reni and was escorted to the limit of Palestine territorial waters on 6th April after being supplied with food for five days by the Jewish Agency and with water by the Haifa port authorities. Five Jews certified unfit to travel were detained and are receiving medical treatment. One of these has been sentenced to detention under the Emergency Regulations. The captain of the vessel certified that he has no com plaints to make regarding the arrangements.
- (3)250 Jews were prevented from landing from the Steamship "Assimi" on nth April. The vessel with its passengers was detained in Haifa port and, after being ordered to leave, sailed from there on 23rd April. Six Jews out of 80 who succeeded in landing prior to the capture of this ship are under arrest and their case is under investigation. The passengers and crew were sup plied with food by the Jewish community and with water by the port authorities.
§ In future would-be illegal immigrants will be provided with food and water during detention in harbour and for their return voyage by the Palestine Government.
§ On 15th April another vessel, the Steamship "Panagai Conestria," with 182 Jews on board, was captured at Haifa. Attempts to compel this vessel to leave the port were frustrated by the action of the passengers, and as it was not possible to send the ship and her cargo to sea nor to keep them indefinitely in the harbour, the Jewish passengers are being removed to the quarantine station at Haifa where they will be guarded and 1129 fed by the Palestine Government. They will be prosecuted, and the master and crew will be interned.