HC Deb 06 February 1941 vol 368 cc1065-7
27. Mr. G. Strauss

asked the Home Secretary what is the position of more than 100 refugees who have been brought back from Canada for release and have now been for many weeks in Huyton camp?

Mr. H. Morrison

I would refer my hon. Friend to a reply which I gave to a Question on this subject by my right hon. Friend the Member for Newcastle-under-Lyme (Mr. Wedgwood) on 30th January.

Mr. Strauss

Does my right hon. Friend realise that these men have already had a preliminary inspection from Sir Alexander Paterson, and will he not keep them very long at Huyton, as presumably they are people who are willing and able to do pioneer work, agricultural work, and so on?

Mr. Morrison

It must be clear that they have no more prima facie grounds for release than any other refugees, but the fact that they have been to Canada and back may be a consideration, and I am anxious that they shall be sorted out, if I may so put it, as soon as possible. The fact of their return from Canada, however, indicates only that they have prima facie case for consideration, and it does not of itself give them priority over other refugees who have been interned in the Isle of Man for some time.

Mr. Sorensen

How many refugees are interned in camps in this country?

Mr. Morrison

I cannot say without notice.

28. Mr. G. Strauss

asked the Home Secretary whether he will make representations to the Dominion Government to reconsider the position of Alexander Fischer, who escaped from his German guards when being transferred from Dachau to Buchenwald, came to this country as a refugee, was interned and sent to Canada, where he escaped and reached the United States of America, and, on being sent back to Canada, was sentenced to two years' imprisonment for escaping?

Mr. Morrison

The Question refers no doubt to Manuel Fischer, and I am obliged to my hon. Friend for calling attention to this case. I am getting into immediate communication with His Majesty's Government in Canada and will inform my hon. Friend of the result of my inquiries.

29. Mr. Strauss

asked the Home Secretary whether he is aware that, in process of search at Quebec of the belongings of a batch of alien refugees sent to Canada, goods to the value of £1,200 were stolen; that this theft has been the subject of a court of inquiry in Canada, but that no steps have been taken to recompense the refugees for the loss sustained; and, as in many cases the goods stolen were the only possessions of the refugees, will he take steps to pay them proper compensation?

Mr. Morrison

In the time available since this Question was put down it has not been possible to obtain any definite information about the incident referred to. It seems probable, however, that the matter is primarily one for the Canadian authorities, and I am having inquiries made. I should be glad if my hon. Friend could let me have any information in his possession about this matter.

34. Mr. Harvey

asked the Home Secretary whether he can now make any further statement as to the position with regard to the married internees who went to Australia on the "Dunera," and who were to have been joined in internment there by their wives and children?

Mr. Morrison

I have now learned that the Australian authorities are willing, subject to certain conditions, that the wives and children in question should go to Australia. The present lack of shipping facilities, however, presents a serious obstacle to this course and other considerations have arisen since the question was first considered which have an important bearing on the matter; for instance, a considerable number of the internees in Australia are prospective emigrants to the United States, while others may be eligible for release under the categories of the White Paper. I am very grateful to the Australian Government for their offer, and we will make every attempt to overcome the difficulties to which I have referred, but I have come to the conclusion that at all events at present it is not practicable, or in the interests of the parties concerned, to avail ourselves of this offer. In the meantime, as indicated by my hon. Friend the Par- liamentary Secretary in an answer which he gave on 21st January, my representative is now on his way to Australia; he is being asked in particular to look into the position with regard to these married internees and will personally interview the internees concerned.

Mr. Harvey

Will the Home Secretary take steps to bring back any married men in cases where an assurance was given which cannot now be fulfilled?

Mr. Morrison

Certainly that point will be given consideration. On balance, I think, the matter can be better dealt with on the spot by my reprsentative who is on his way over, but my hon. Friend knows that I am quite sympathetic on the matter.

Mr. G. Strauss

Will the right hon. Gentleman bear in mind that a definite undertaking was given by his predecessor that wives would be sent out to their husbands in Australia?

Mr. Morrison

It was a conditional undertaking, if it were possible, and related to a limited number of cases. However, I do not wish to press that point unduly. I am very anxious that the spirit of that undertaking shall be observed, and I am very grateful to His Majesty's Government in Australia for their helpfulness in the matter.

36. Captain Shaw

asked the Home Secretary the number of interned Jewish refugees who are eligible to join the Pioneer Corps and the number who have already volunteered?

Mr. Morrison

Up to 31st January applications for enlistment in the Pioneer Corps had been received from 1,974 Germans and Austrians and from 288 Italians. I cannot say how many of the applicants are Jewish, since the statistics are not kept on a basis of creed or race.