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USSR Clamps Down on Granting Exit Visas to Soviet Jews

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Fifty Jewish families who had received postcards from Soviet officials to appear at their local OVIR (office of visas and registration) on the day reserved only for giving out exit visas, were told that officials, on second thought, had decided not to issue them, according to the National Conference on Soviet Jewry. Their refusals were based on the fact that the degree of kinship of Israeli relatives was “not of the first degree,” therefore not qualifying them for emigration. The families had already sold their belongings and made some of the arrangements for their final departure, the NCSJ said.

This new evidence of further constraints on emigration follows a harsh campaign of harassment and arrests of Kiev Jewish citizens by the Soviet officials, the latest of which involved the arrest and two week detention of Kiev refuseniks who openly protested their refusals to the Presidium of the Supreme Soviet of the Ukrainian Republic, the NCSJ reported. The refuseniks were also harassed by Soviet officials and were made objects of slanderous articles printed in various Soviet newspapers. The NCSJ said it was convinced that this new development is a foreshadowing of future obstacles to be implemented by the USSR in the way of emigration.

According to Jerry Goddman, NCSJ executive director, “This new development will not sit well with Congress, the U.S. government and the American people. It jeopardizes whatever good will the USSR might have engendered in permitting more Jews to leave this year than ever before, It also demonstrates the Soviet Union’s lack of compliance to the human rights provisions of the Helsinki Final Act and suggests the need for assurances of future progress and action which are necessary, as provided for in the waiver provision of the Jackson Vanik Amendment to our trade laws.”

An analysis by the NCSJ Soviet Jewy Research Bureau of the sharp upturn in the number of refusals, particularly in the Ukraine, confirms suspicions that local officials have been instructed to drastically decrease the number of applications being submitted for emigration to Israel. Furthermore, the change is having a dramatic impact on Jews who will be able to leave.

Hundreds of families who previously wanted to leave have recently been deterred from applying, while scores of those refused remain silent, some out of fear of harassment to themselves or their families, the NCSJ declared.

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