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Austrian Government, Jewish Agency Reach Accord on Soviet Jewish Emigrants Processed Through Austria

A final agreement has ended the difference between Austrian authorities and the Jewish Agency regarding Soviet Jewish emigrants being processed through Austria. The Interior Ministry announced the agreement Monday and Jewish Agency sources confirmed it today.

According to the Ministry the agreement is in accord with Austrian law which demands that every emigrant has the right to chose his or her country of immigration freely. Emigrants are informed by the police on the bus from the airport or from the railroad station to the Jewish Agency’s camp about various possibilities of immigration aid.

If they want to go to a country other than Israel, they have to leave the Agency’s premises and go to the nearest police station where they receive detailed information about Jewish and non-Jewish aid organizations which help them to go to Western countries.

NEW PROCEDURE OUTLINED

Sources at the Jewish Agency said the first information sheet handed out on the bus is worded in a very general way addressing all groups of emigrants, not only Jews. The Agency insists on dealing only with persons who want to enter Israel.

The differences between the Interior Ministry and the Jewish Agency erupted when the authorities put up a poster inside the Agency’s transit camp listing other refugee organizations. This was done after HIAS announced late last year that it would only assist to go to the United States those emigrants with first degree relatives there. The Interior Ministry perceived the freedom of choice for emigrants to be endangered. The Jewish Agency reacted to the poster by removing its staff from the transit camp.

The Interior Ministry removed the poster but demanded all emigrants going to Israel had to sign a written statement saying that they were doing so without any pressure put on them. Many refused to sign such a statement. The new agreement was acceptable by both sides.

Meanwhile, Baruch Minkovich, a lawyer from Tel Aviv, who had been director of the Jewish Agency in Vienna for two years, ended his term this week and was to return to Israel. His successor is Lea Slovin, also a lawyer.

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