HC Deb 30 June 1952 vol 503 cc23-4
34. Mr. Cocks

asked the Secretary of State for Foreign Affairs whether he will propose to the United Nations organisation that those prisoners in Korea who have refused repatriation on genuinely conscientious grounds, and who have convinced the authorities of their good faith, should be allowed to leave the camps and merge with the civilian population, or, alternatively, should be entrusted to a neutral power.

The Minister of State (Mr. Selwyn Lloyd)

Both of the hon. Gentleman's suggestions will be borne in mind; but I should prefer to make no further statement at present.

Mr. Cocks

Would it not tend to shorten the armistice negotiations if this were done, as, obviously, if these men are no longer in the custody of the United Nations they cannot be exchanged?

Mr. Lloyd

It is certainly a matter which requires careful consideration, but there are certain aspects of it which had better not be ventilated in public.

Mr. A. Henderson

Can the Minister say when he expects to be in a position to tell the House the number of prisoners of war who have actually been screened and the categories into which they fall?

Mr. Lloyd

There is a Question dealing with part of that matter on the Order Paper today and I shall give certain information then. I hope to give a final answer when the process has been completed.

Colonel J. H. Harrison

May I ask my right hon. and learned Friend to take no action on these lines which would prejudice the position of our own 960 prisoners of war in Communist hands?

Mr. Lloyd

That is certainly one of the matters to which I shall give attention.

Mr. S. Silverman

Can the Minister say how far it is true, as suggested in one of the Sunday papers yesterday, that the question of these prisoners has been greatly complicated by the indiscriminate arrest of South Korean civilians during the retreat 18 months ago, and that a great number of these civilians have got mixed up in the prisoner-of-war camps with others who are prisoners of war?

Mr. Lloyd

There is a category of people called "civilian internees" who have been dealt with separately, and, at the moment, satisfactorily. They have been detached from the other body.

39. Mr. Chetwynd

asked the Secretary of State for Foreign Affairs how many North Korean and Chinese prisoners are now held by United Nations Forces in Korea; how many Chinese and North Koreans have refused repatriation; and how many have still to be screened.

Mr. Selwyn Lloyd

The United Nations Command hold about 132,000 Communist prisoners of war in South Korea. About 20,000 are Chinese and the balance Koreans, some North Koreans and others South Koreans impressed into the North Korean forces.

As control is regained over the Communist-controlled compounds, screening is proceeding. I estimate that fewer than 40,000 still remain to be screened. I am not able to give up-to-date figures of those who have stated that they would forcibly resist being repatriated to North Korea; but at least 15,000 Chinese and 43,000 Koreans have so stated. No figures for civilian internees are included in the figures I have just given.

Mr. Chetwynd

Has the right hon. and learned Gentleman any information that the Chinese are less difficult prisoners than the North Koreans?

Mr. Lloyd

That was the information which I received.

Mr. A. Henderson

Does the right hon. and learned Gentleman's answer mean that no re-screening has yet taken place?

Mr. Lloyd

No re-screening has yet taken place.

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