LONDON (Dec. 4)
Some 1,500 Jewish refugee survivors of last week’s Patria disaster in Haifa harbor will be permitted to remain in Palestine as an "exceptional act of mercy" on the part of the British Government, it was announced in the House of Commons today.
Declaring the Government’s decision was taken in consideration of the survivors’ "harassing experience," Colonial Undersecretary George H. Hall said the total of those permitted to remain would be deducted from the next Palestine immigration quota. Hall warned, however, that the Government had not changed its position with regard to other past or future illegal immigrants who, he said, would be sent everseas as soon as shipping arrangements could be made.
The steamer Patria, loaded with 1,771 Jewish refugees from central European countries who had been wandering on the seas for many weeks and who had been forbidden to land in Palestine, sank early on the morning of Nov. 25 after a mysterious explosion. of the total passengers, 32 have so far been found dead, 226 are still missing and 1,513 have been interned at Athlit.
Replying to a question from Col. Josiah Wedgwood regarding the immigrants who arrived at Haifa and why they were not admitted like other refugees from Rumania, Hall said the persons in question, who all came from enemy or enemy-occupied territory, were intercepted in an attempt to enter Palestine against the law of the country.
"His Majesty’s Government, while not lacking sympahy for refugees from territories under German control, can only regard the revival of attempts at illegal immigration at the present juncture as likely to affect the local situation must adversely and prove a serious menace to Briths interests in the Middle East," Hall continued. "Accordingly it was decided that these persons and any further parties who may succeed in reaching Palestine with a view to illegal entry should be sent to a British colony for the duration of the war."
Referring to the Patria sinking, he declared: "The causes of the disaster are still under investigation but it has been decided by His Majesty’s Government, as an exceptional act of mercy and after taking all circumstances under consideration, particularly the harrassing experience undergone by the survivors, not to proceed with the proposal to send these particular persons overseas. They will accordingly the allowed to stay in Palestine subject to existing regulations. Their number will be deducted from the next immigration quota.
"The position remains unchanged regarding all other illegal immigrants who arrived recently off the coast of Palestine and who may arrive hereafter. They will the sent overseas as soon as necessary shipping arrangements can he made. The case of these illegal immigrants is entirely different from that of other refugees admitted Palenstine on a purely temporary basis after a careful investigation of their bona fidess."
After asking why news of the occurrence was not sent to England soccer and how it came about that a valuable ship was sacrificed in that manner, Coil. Wedgewood told the House that he would raise the matter again.