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Treatment of 150,000 Ukrainian refugees mostly Jews, in Poland and about 45,000 in Bessarabia, is described in a report just submitted by Lucien Wolf on behalf of the Jewish Joint Foreign Committee to the Jewish Colonization Association.
The report, the advance proof of which the Jewish Telegraphic Agency obtained today, contains Mr. Wolf’s account of the proceedings of the fourth meeting of the League of Nations’ advisory committee to the High Commissioner for Russian Refugees, which was held in Geneva on April 20, and was devoted to the exclusive consideration of the Jewish refugees’ problem.
After recalling the plight of the refugees ordered expelled from Poland and refused admission to Soviet Ukraine, and of the refugees from Bessarabia for many of whom drowning in the river Dniester appeared as the only solution, the Joint Foreign Committee asserts there are no serious causes for complaint with regard to Roumania now.
While the Polish authorities have failed to act on “notable modifications of the expulsion decree” which had been promised, mass expulsion accross the Russian frontier need no longer be feared it is said.
Another fdature of the report is that the number of refugees in Poland has been reduced from 150,000 in, September 1921 to only about 10,000 early in 1923. With regard to Roumania, where in March 1922 the number of refugees was estimated to be 45,000, only 11,000 are reported to be there now.
The report begins with the statement that the meeting was called at the request of the Joint Foreign Committee because the Polish and Roumanian governments had resolved to expell the Russian refugees. The Polish decree, although aiming as the Russian refugees generally, was being applied only to Jews, and no time was allowed them to establish their status as political refugees.
At the time the meeting took place, considerable numbers of Jewish refugees had been taken to the Russian frontier and driven across under circumstances of great cruelty. Most of the refugees having forfeited their rights as Russian citizens, owing to their illegal flight from Russia, the Soviets refuse to receive them.
In consequence the refugees were tossed backwards and forwards between the Russian and Polish frontier guards. Many were lert to die through want and exposure in the neutral Zone, after they had been robbed of all their possessions by officials entrusted with the expulsion.
Equally horrowing stories were brought from the Roumanian frontier where there had been cases of refugees who were unable to remain in Bessarabia and were refused admission to the Ukraine and were left to drown in the Dniester.
Jewish societies, the report continues, could see no justification or public grounds for this drastic action. In May, 1921, M. Perlovsky, the Polish delegate to the International Conference convened by the League of Nations gave categoric assurances that no refugees would be forcibly repatriated. Furthermore, Perlovski wrote on May 25, 1921, to the Secretary-General of the League that the return of Russian refugees of all categories must be voluntary, none to be obliged directly or indirectly to return to their own country against their will.
On September 14, he wrote again: “My government only deals with cases of voluntary repatriation and regards all refugees refusing to return to their country as political refugees enjoying the right of asylum.”
The report states further that in March 1922 the Bucharest agent of the League of Nations estimated the number of Jewish refugees in Bessarabia to be 45,000. In the beginning of 1923, however, despite the arrival of many fresh refugees, the number was placed at 11,000.
In September, 1921, M. Perlovski, then Polish delegate to the League, estimated the number of refugees in Poland to be 150,000, of whom 86,421 had received passports to proceed overseas. Although large numbers continued to enter Poland, the total remaining in September, 1922, was only 20,000. Early in 1923, only 10,000 remained.
Mr. Wolf futher recalls that in January, Premier Bratiano of Roumania had stated there were to be no expulsions. Owing to the momentary divergence between the Cabinet and the military administration of Bessarabia, the expulsions were continued until February. There have been no serious causes for complaint since then.
The Joint Foreign Committee in its report records its gratitude to the Roumanian government, while recording also that the Polish authorities had not acted on “notable modification of the expulsion decree” which had been made following the representations by Dr. Nansen.
Mr. Wolf voices the conviction that mass expulsion across the Russian frontier need no longer be feared and that the Polish government will provide reasonable facilities for evacuation.
The report covers also representations made with reference to the numerus clausus agitation in Vienna. It declares the agitation to be part of a wide-reaching anti-Semitic movement which had spread from Hungary all over Central and Eastern Europe.
The agitation was aimed at the virtual exclusion of Jews from all universities. This, the report points out, is a direct infraction of the minority clauses in the treaties, but the Vienna Technical Institute astutely evaded the difficulty by applying the numerus clausus to foreigners only. The League therefore had no technical right to interfere.
The Austrian Premier and Foreign Minister both attended the meeting of the Council of the League at the same time, Dr. Nansen handing them resolutions of the Advisory Committee and explaining the situation to them. In view probably of this “explanation”, the Joint Foreign Committee says it believes that the action will not prove fruitless.
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