WASHINGTON (Jul. 20)
The American Jewish community would support the termination of most favored nation status (MFN) for Rumania next year if there is no “significant improvement in Rumania’s emigration performance,” Rabbi Israel Miller told a Congressional panel here.
Speaking on behalf of the Conference of Presidents of Major American Jewish Organizations, Miller said that “since the renewal of MFN last September, the emigration situation has deteriorated markedly.” He offered that observation Monday to the Trade Subcommittee of the House Ways and Means Committee which is conducting hearings on whether MFN status for Rumania should be renewed by extending the emigration waiver authority under Section 402 of the Trade Reform Act.
Administration officials appearing before the subcommittee earlier testified that “overall Rumanian performance” on emigration “justified continued exercise” of MFN status for that country.
But Miller claimed that “during the last II months, only 1255 Jews have been allowed to leave for Israel.” He compared that figure with 2501 Jews who left Rumania between August, 1975 and July 1976 and 2592 who left between August, 1974 and July, 1975. “Thus, instead of improving following the extension of MFN to Rumania, the permitted Jewish emigration rate has dropped sharply and is being maintained at a low level,” Miller said.
“This situation surely does not demonstrate Rumanian compliance with the liberalized emigration practices required by Section 402 of the Trade Reform Act,” he said.
ALLEGES HARASSMENT BY RUMANIA
According to Miller, “Our best estimates are that between 60,000-70,000 Jews remain in Rumania” and about half that number desires to emigrate. However, Miller claimed, “The Rumanians have tried to minimize the size of the Jewish population which wishes to leave both by arbitrarily lowering its official figures as to the number of Jews still in Rumania and by asserting that only a few thousand Jews a year are applying for exit visas.”
Miller alleged harassment by Rumanian authorities which, he said, discouraged would-be emigrants. “Since the emigration rate is carefully controlled, many wishing to emigrate hesitate to subject themselves to harassment and a prolonged state of uncertainty by applying,” he said. “While many Jews have formally applied for exit visas and either been refused or not answered by the authorities, thousands more have been discouraged from applying by the obstacles built into the application process,” according to Miller.
He said that “Those who seek an application for a passport and an exit visa are confronted by official committees which probe their motivations and try to dissuade them from applying. Individuals who persevere in the process may find they suddenly lose their jobs and are permitted only menial work for as long as they remain in Rumania,” Miller stated.
He said that “the poor showing in emigration over the last two years leads us to conclude that the Rumanian government believes Congress will continue to renew MFN automatically regardless of performance in this area. This attitude violates the spirit of the trade agreement and disregards the strong Congressional commitment to the principle of freedom of emigration,” Miller said. He expressed hope “that the Administration will be more aggressive” in pressing the case for Rumanians seeking to emigrate.