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Situation of Memel Refugees Critical; U.S. Consul Stops Taking Applications

The position of Jewish refugees from Germany, Austria and former Czechoslovakia who had been residing in Memel before the German occupation reached a critical stage today as result of an announcement by the Interior Ministry that their residence permits here will not be prolonged. Efforts of Jewish organizations to provide visas for other countries, including Palestine, have so far been fruitless.

Moreover, a new category of “stateless” is likely to be created by the former Memel Jews who opted for Lithuanian citizenship when Memelland was annexed by Lithuania after the war. Their Lithuanian passports, issued by the Governor of Memel, are no longer recognized. Foreign countries are not even granting them transit visas. Latvia is not allowing them to cross the frontier, although Lithuanians are admitted into Latvia without visas. They probably will be allowed to stay in small provincial towns without labor permits, but, like the German refugees, will not be permitted to settle in Kaunas and other larger centers.

The United States Consulate here has stopped registration of applications for immigration visas. Sufficient applications are on hand to fill the Lithuanian quota to the United States for the next five years.

Meanwhile, Interior Minister Skucas announced to the press that political and economic restrictions on Jews were out of the question since they were a loyal minority. The Jews will enjoy full equality of rights and the Government is determined to suppress attempts at Jew-baiting and excesses, he said.

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