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State Dept. Concerned over Decrease in Number of Soviet Jews Allowed to Emigrate This Year

The State Department, voicing “deep concern” over the large decrease in the number of Jews emigrating from the Soviet Union this year, pledged today to continue efforts to convince the USSR to lift its restrictions on emigration.

Our government is committed to making every effort to try to convince the Soviets to ease their restrictive practices,” Department deputy spokesman Alan Romberg said. He stated that the figures released yesterday in New York by the National Conference on Soviet Jewry and the Greater New York Conference on Soviet Jewry that only 2,670 Jews were granted exit visas in 1982, as compared to 9,447 in 1981, were “basically correct.” (See separate story P.4.)

Romberg noted, however, that the State Department does not yet have the official figures for 1982. “Through the first II months of this year, 2,512 Soviet Jews emigrated from the USSR and the annual figure will undoubtedly be the lowest since 1970 when large-scale emigration first began,” he said. The largest number of emigrants–51,320 — was in 1979.

“The severe constriction of emigration by the Soviet authorities in recent years is a matter of deep concern to the U.S. government,” Romberg said, “and this concern has been communicated to the Soviet government at every level, both in public forums and through diplomatic channels. We regard the Soviet reductions in emigration as clearly contradictory to the principle of freedom of movement and family reunification contained in the Helsinki Final Act to which the USSR is a signatory.”

He added: “We know that there are still thousands of people in the Soviet Union who want to leave but have been denied that basic right because of procedural pretexts or arbitrary decisions by Soviet officials.”

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