HC Deb 13 June 1939 vol 348 cc1111-2
Mr. T. Williams (by Private Notice)

asked the Secretary of State for the Home Department whether his attention has been drawn to the plight of about 900 German Jewish refugees on board the "St. Louis;" whether he is aware that when they sailed for Cuba four weeks ago these refugees were furnished with visas, but on reaching Cuba were refused per mission to land; that the ship has now returned to European waters, and that according to the latest report about 200 of the refugees have been allowed to land in Holland temporarily; and whether he will take steps to afford asylum to at least some of those remaining on board?

The Under-Secretary of State for the Home Department (Mr. Peake)

It is of the first importance that arrangements for the emigration of Jewish refugees from Germany shall proceed in accordance with an orderly programme and that no encouragement shall be given to any idea that if refugees leave Germany before arrangements have been made for their admission to some other country, special facilities will be granted for their reception. In this case, however, from inquiries which have been made, it appears that there are exceptional circumstances which would justify the admission to this country of a proportion of these refugees pending arrangements for their ultimate emigration, and arrangements are being made accordingly. It is understood that the Governments of Belgium and Holland are also willing to take their share in providing temporary asylum for other members of the party. It is, however, essential to emphasise the point that the special arrangements made in this case cannot be regarded as a precedent for the reception in future of refugees who may leave Germany before definite arrange- ments have been made for their admission elsewhere.

Mr. Williams

While thanking the hon. Gentleman for his reply and His Majesty's Government expression of sympathy, in view of the fact that these persons were furnished with visas before they left Germany on their way to Cuba, will the hon. Member ask his right hon. Friend to be generous in this matter?

Mr. Peake

That is the special circumstance which would justify us in making an exception in this case.