HC Deb 12 February 1947 vol 433 cc350-2
23. Mr. W. Shepherd

asked the Chancellor of the Duchy of Lancaster, if he will make a statement on the trainload of refugees from Western Poland, about which British Military Headquarters at Herford gave some details on Friday 20th December; what steps have been taken to deal with those responsible; and what efforts are being made to prevent a repetition.

The Chancellor of the Duchy of Lancaster (Mr. John Hynd)

I would refer the hon. Member to the statements I made in the House on 22nd and 29th January. The movement of these refugees has been suspended.

Mr. Shepherd

Can the Chancellor make any comment on the statement made by the Polish Government that fuel sufficient for the journey accompanied these individuals?

Mr. Hynd

That has been included in the statement have already made.

31. Mr. Collins

asked the Chancellor of the Duchy of Lancaster if he is aware of the announcement by the Polish Government to the effect that the two trains carrying German repatriates from Poland, in which there were a large number of deaths from exposure, were received without any reservations by British liaison teams and were therefore no longer the responsibility of the Polish authorities, and that the same trains were used for the return of Polish repatriates; and whether he will make a further statement on the action of the Polish Government in this matter, in the light of the requirements of the Potsdam Agreement.

Mr. J. Hynd

A full statement has already been made in the House about the trains which arrived from Polish administered territories and, as will be gathered from that statement, the British liaison team was faced with the dilemma of accepting the trains, or leaving the passengers isolated in an area in which no shelter could be provided. To turn the trains back would have entailed a journey of three days. To send them forward to the British zone would normally have taken only 24 hours, and it was therefore decided, in the interests of the refugees, to adopt the second alternative, while at the same time, making immediate telephonic representations to Berlin to secure the cancellation of any further trains in these conditions. I understand that one of the trains was used for the return of Polish repatriates, although efforts were made to stop it.

Representations and protests to the Polish authorities have been made in the light of an agreement which was signed by British and Polish representatives in February, 1946. This implemented Article XIII of the Potsdam Agreement under which population transfers were to be effected in an orderly and humane manner.

Mr. Collins

Will my right hon. Friend say whether these liaison teams had any responsibility for the timing or conditions of rounding-up of these unfortunate people in Poland?

Mr. Hynd

Certainly not. The British liaison teams were posted on the frontier to check up on the condition in which these people arrived at the frontier, and to decide whether or not they could go forward. On the occasion of the arrival of these two trains, the conditions were particularly severe, and it was felt by our officers that it would be a serious thing to turn these people back.

Vice-Admiral Taylor

Can the right hon. Gentleman say what effect the protest has had?

Mr. Hynd

Yes, Sir; there have been no further trains received after the one reported on by my officers.

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