WASHINGTON (Mar. 11)
State Department sources, admitting “considerable administrative delay” in the use of the $50 million appropriated to the Department for Soviet Emigration purposes, told the Jewish Telegraphic Agency that the money is now directly available and plans for its expenditure are in progress.
Congress last Oct. appropriated the funds for use this fiscal year ending June 30 to aid Jews and others emigrating from the Soviet Union to Israel and other countries which may accept them The practical effect of the legislation is to assist Jewish emigrants since they exceed by far at this time emigration of non-Jews.
Rep. Joshua Eilberg (D.Pa.) charged last week in a telegram to President Nixon that the administration secretly has impounded the funds after the President had signed the bill which made the money available. The government accounting office disclosed that the State Department had not asked for the $50 million, he said, and apparently had made no plans to spend it. Last Thursday, however, a statement from Eilberg’s office reported that the funds have been released and “work has also begun on the plans for spending the money.”
Eilberg said that “the funds will be used to pay the transportation costs from Russia to Israel for the refugees, modernization of stop-over facilities in Austria, improvement and construction of reception centers in Israel, and for housing for the refugees in Israel.” Noting that more than 30,000 Soviet Jews had emigrated to Israel last year, Eilberg said that “while Israel has welcomed all these people it simply cannot handle the financial burden of assimilating them.”
GRANTS WILL GO TO ICEM
When Eilberg’s statement was brought to the attention of the State Department, the JTA was informed that the Office of Management and Budget released the $50 million to the Department March 5 and that “plans to utilize the funds are being made” by the State Department’s Office of Refugee and Migration Affairs in consultation with the American Embassy in Tel Aviv, the government of Israel and Jewish voluntary agencies in the United States. Frank L. Kellog, special assistant to Secretary of State William P.Rogers heads the office.
Although firm decisions have not been reached,” the sources told JTA, “we anticipate these funds will support the housing and care of the migrants in Europe while they are in travel status, their onward transport and their initial resettlement in Israel. We anticipate the expenditures will be made in the form of grants to the Intergovernmental Committee for European Migration (ICEM) and to voluntary agencies.” No decision has been yet made for using the funds for housing in Israel the source said. He agreed that this was a variation from Eilberg’s statement regarding this factor.
ICEM is a 31-nation organization outside of the United Nations. It was established after World War II to assist emigrants from Eastern Europe in resettling in other areas. While virtually, all of the Jewish emigration from the Soviet Union is centered near Vienna before it flows mainly to Israel, Department officials said they preferred the use of “Europe” in their planning. They noted that the legislation applies to immigrants to Israel or another suitable country of Jewish and “similar refugees” from the Soviet Union.