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Seek South American Aid for Refugees

July 8, 1940
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The problem of Jewish refugees from France is becoming increasingly serious. The principal difficulty is the finding of outlets for emigration, but there are also difficulties in arranging transit through Spain and temporary residence in Portugal, and in finding overseas transportation.

Emphasizing that thousands of Jews in occupied France could enter Portugal if entry visas for Latin American countries were secured, the HIAS-ICA Emigration Association has sent an appeal to its branches in South and Central America to advise whether these countries would relax immigration restrictions for refugees in view of the new situation.

“It is not necessary to tell you with what anxiety we await your immediate–and, let us hope, positive–reply,” said the appeal, which pointed out that the HIAS-ICA itself requires refuge overseas. The Portuguese Government has refused the organization permission to establish its central headquarters here, despite the intervention of the American Minister, and consequently its work will have to be conducted by the local Jewish relief committee.

The appeal asks especially whether immigration visas can be obtained for 30 members of the HIAS-ICA staff who were trapped in France. Also remaining in France are members of the staff of the American Jewish Joint Distribution Committee who do not hold American or British passports. They are now in a town near the Spanish frontier. Morris C. Troper, European director of the J.D.C., has cabled the Dominican Government asking permission for them to enter that country, since they need visas in order to obtain transit through Spain and Portugal.

The flood of refugees from France is now subsiding and the HIAS-ICA in Lisbon has started registration of Jewish refugees in Oporto, Coimbra, Leiria and other provincial towns to which the refugees were sent in order to prevent overcrowding of the capital. Several hundred Jewish refugees of various nationalities have been admitted to Portugal for a maximum stay of a month pending remigration.

A HIAS-ICA representative sent to the Portuguese frontier reported by telephone from the Villar Formoso border station that he had found there 60 Jewish refugees of various nationalities, for whom railway fare in Portuguese currency was provided to enable them to proceed. The organization was also planning to send representatives to the Franco-Spanish frontier and to Biarritz to see if they could assist Jewish refugees.

The Spanish Government is determined to admit no more refugees, except holders of American or diplomatic passports, and special military patrols have been established on the roads. The Spanish press estimates that 6,000,000 refugees are crowding the roads of southern France. It is reported that small boats carrying refugees which reached the Spanish coast, especially San Sebastian, were not permitted to land.

The number of Jewish refugees in southern France has been swelled by the release last week of German refugees from French concentration centers. Many of them had applied for United States and Latin American visas in Paris before the Nazi occupation of the French capital, and it is believed that a substantial number are entitled to American quota visas.

The HIAS-ICA is also seeking to cope with the problem of scarcity of overseas transportation. It has started negotiations with Portuguese and Greek steamship companies for transportation of holders of visas to the United States and Latin American countries on freighters converted into passenger ships. Among the Jewish refugees in Portugal are 20 holders of United States visas.

The Madrid newspaper ABC reports that 4,000 Polish and Czech Jews are among the refugees at the Franco-Spanish frontier seeking admission into Spain in the hope of finding means of emigration. The paper’s correspondent at Irun reports the refugees suffering from thunderstorms, which are breaking at this time of the year, as they sleep on the roads or in their automobiles.

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