HC Deb 27 June 1949 vol 466 cc754-6
61. Mr. Pickthorn

asked the Secretary of State for Foreign Affairs what recent reports His Majesty's Government have had from the British representative on the United Nations Special Committee on the Balkans about the abduction by Communists of Greek children; how many such abductions have occurred; how many of the children are known to be in Yugoslavia; and what action His Majesty's Government have taken, and are taking, through the United Nations, to trace and to arrange for the return of abducted children.

Mr. Mayhew

We have had no recent report from this body. The total number of abductions is not accurately known though the Greek Red Cross puts it at 25,000. Five thousand children are believed to be in Yugoslavia. His Majesty's Government consider that the work of tracing and arranging for the return of these children is best left to the International Committee of the Red Cross and League of Red Cross Societies, to whom the task has been entrusted under the Assembly's resolution of 27th November last. His Majesty's Government are ready to support their efforts whenever required.

Mr. Pickthorn

Does that answer mean that there has been no communication either from the British Government or from the United Nations to the Yugoslav Government on this subject?

Mr. Mayhew

I do not think there have been direct communications but the Red Cross Societies have now visited Yugoslavia.

Mr. F. Noel-Baker

Is the Minister aware that the figure given of abductions to Yugoslavia is an under-estimate and that I was personally informed with some pride by an official of the Yugoslav Government some time ago that 9,000 Greek children had been kidnapped and were now kept in Yugoslavia?

Mr. Mayhew

I could not vouch for the accuracy of the figure, but I believe it to be accurate.

Mr. Kenneth Lindsay

Does that mean that the United Nations Committee has no knowledge that any child has been traced or sent back or where these abducted children are? The Minister has said that the Red Cross have made an investigation; has any child yet been returned?

Mr. Mayhew

I said that they have made an investigation. We have an interim report but we shall get a great deal more information. We are awaiting still further reports from the Red Cross.

Mr. H. Strauss

Since the abduction and retention of these children are among the greatest of all the atrocities that have been committed, would it not be right to bear that fact in mind in negotiating any agreement whatsoever with any of the countries concerned in the matter?

Mr. Piratin

Is it not the case that these children were evacuated—[An HON. MEMBER: "No."]—from an area where Greek bombers were bombing civilians and where the children had to be taken care of?

Mr. F. Noel-Baker

On a point of Order, Mr. Speaker. Is it in Order for an hon. Member to describe another hon. Member—in this case myself—as a robber of peasants and to do so in a very audible voice?

Mr. Speaker

It sounds to me improper, but I did not hear the remark.