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7,000 Refugees Flee to Safety in Switzerland and Spain, JDC Reports

A total of seven thousand refugees, in fear of deportation to the East from Holland, Belgium and France, have fled to neutral Switzerland and Spain in the past three months, it was announced today by Joseph C. Hyman, executive vice-chairman of the Joint Distribution Committee.

The refugees, of whom 6,000 entered Switzerland and 1,000 entered Spain without legal documents, are destitute, Mr. Hyman declared. At least half of the arrivals in Spain have been interned or jailed. The Joint Distribution Committee, in cooperation with local Jewish committees, is making strenuous efforts to alleviate their situation.

According to the information received by the Joint Distribution Committee by cable from its representative in Lisbon, the 6,000 refugees who have crossed the Swiss border are being held in special camps by the authorities. Until recently, as many as 220 refugees a day were entering the country, but this has been out down to 30 a day as a result of increased vigilance by Swiss and French border guards, the cable said. The camps to which these arrivals are sent appear to be model internment centers and far superior to similar camps in Europe. The camps are well equipped and food is adequate. The Swiss Government is attempting to provide work for able-bodied internees in accordance with its policy of permitting refugees to earn their keep.

SPAIN PLACES WOMEN AND CHILDREN IN CITY JAILS

“Of the approximately 1,000 who made their way to Spain at least half have been apprehended,” Mr. Hyman said. “The women and children have been placed in city jails, the men in the internment camp of Miranda del Ebro. Others are still circulating in Barcelona, Madrid, Figueroa and other cities, but are in constant danger of being picked up. Under the circumstances, the cost of their maintenance is extremely high. Our representative, who personally spent several days in Spain discussing the situation with local groups, indicates that he is trying to secure the release of the jailed refugees on the basis of a guarantee of maintenance to be supplied by the Joint Distribution Committee. Prospects for the release of about 75 women and children held in Figueroa seem hopeful.”

Supplying funds for maintaining the refugees in Spain will constitute a major problem, Mr. Hyman added, since, in the absence of any authorized local Jewish welfare body, the refugees must be supported on an individual basis at tourist rates. In the past the cost has run as high as $20 a week per person. In the first ten months of 1942, the Joint Distribution Committee has had to allot $215,500 for the support of refugees in Spain. Since the beginning of the year it allocated $463,000 for the care of refugees in Switzerland whose number has been doubled by the new arrivals.

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