HC Deb 07 March 1945 vol 408 cc1994-6
17. Mr. Sorensen

asked the Secretary of State for Foreign Affairs how many Greeks are now detained by British authorities in Africa and India; how many have been released and sent back to Greece; and whether he has any information respecting the hunger strike of 3,000 prisoners in a concentration camp near Athens.

Mr. Eden

The number of Greeks detained by the British authorities in Africa amounts to about 12,000. Of these 8,000 are the E.L.A.S. prisoners sent there during the fighting. Arrangements are in hand to transfer all these men to Greece and it is hoped that 1,500 will arrive in about a week's time. Investigations by Greek Government commissioners sent to Egypt for the purpose indicate that not more than about 200 out of the total number will be charged with offences not covered by the amnesty. There are about 4,000 men still detained as a result of the mutinies in the Greek armed forces last Spring. All these men will be repatriated to Greece as and when transport becomes available. Meanwhile, any who wish to do so are being re-employed in the Greek armed forces. Those who do not accept re-employment and those who, from a strict military point of view, are considered unreliable, must be kept together in camps since they cannot be released in the Middle East. Their repatriation to Greece has inevitably been delayed and they cannot expect to return before the loyal units of the Greek forces in the Middle East. There are virtually no Greeks detained in India. Only two cases are known to the Greek authorities.

As regards the last part of the Question, hunger strikes have taken place in two camps under British control near Athens in which a total of 5,000 men were detained. In both cases the strike ended after an address to the men by the E.L.A.S. liaison officer attached to General Scobie's Headquarters. Of these 5,000 men 150 are charged with crimes not covered by the amnesty. Of the rest all except 18 have now been released.

Mr. Sorensen

While expressing appreciation of the action of the right hon. Gentleman, may I ask him whether he can say why these 3,000 went on strike? What was the particular political or economic cause of it?

Mr. Eden

I cannot say, but I am glad to say that they came back almost at once.

Mr. Dugdale

While realising that it is exceedingly difficult to transport these men back to Greece, is there any reason why they should not be liberated and allowed to remain free in the countries in which they are now?

Mr. Eden

That raises complicated issues, for they have to be fed, administered and taken care of, and it is better that they should go back as soon as transport can be arranged.

Mr. Silverman

With regard to those men who are detained as a consequence of so-called mutiny, are they covered by the terms of the amnesty, and when they return to Greece can they be subject to charges not so covered?

Mr. Eden

I shall be glad if the hon. Gentleman will put that down. I do not know what the hon. Gentleman means by "so-called mutiny"

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