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State Department Says Soviet Jewish Migrants Should Have Freedom of Choice on Where They Want to Set

The State Department said today that Soviet Jewish migrants should have their freedom of choice to settle wherever they wished.

Department spokesman Dean Fischer expressed this view when he was asked to comment on the announcement made last week in Jerusalem by Jewish Agency Executive chairman Leon Dulzin that the Agency would refer to HIAS only those Soviet Jews who had first degree relatives in the U.S. and other countries of resettlement but that Soviet Jews without such relatives who left the USSR and opted to resettle in countries other than Israel would have to fend for themselves. Last month, nearly 85 percent of Jews arriving in Vienna from the Soviet Union did not go to Israel.

HIAS, in a resolution adopted by its executive committee Monday night, said it would continue to provide migration services to Jewish refugees coming out of the USSR who choose not to go to Israel. The U.S. government is involved because it pays most of the costs associated with the resettlement of Soviet Jews. It pays Israel $25 million a year and spends about $1,000 for each emigrant going to countries other than Israel.

STATEMENT BY THE STATE DEPARTMENT

Fischer, in response to the question on the resettlement issue, replied: “We have seen a report stating that the Jewish Agency for Israel will no longer provide any assistance for emigrants from the Soviet Union who wish to resettle somewhere other than Israel, excepting only emigrants who wish to join parents, children or spouses in other countries.

“Reportedly, all other Soviet Jewish emigrants who do not choose to fly immediately to Israel will no longer be assisted in contacting other voluntary agencies in Vienna, including several United States agencies who can help them resettle in the country of their choice. Since we were not consulted by the Israelis in advance of their decision to implement this new policy, we cannot say what its actual effect may be.

“United States policy has always been and will continue to be that Soviet Jewish refugees arriving in Vienna should have freedom of choice with regard to where they wish to resettle. Once the Soviet refugees have arrived in Vienna, we see no reason why they should be obliged to go to Israel if there are other countries willing to offer them refuge.”

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