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Washington Weighs Opening of Virgin Islands As Temporary Refugee Haven

November 19, 1940
See Original Daily Bulletin From This Date

Officials of the State, Justice and Interior Departments will confer on the question of admitting European refugees into the Virgin Islands for temporary stay pending remigration to the United States or other American countries it was learned today.

The Interior Department denied a published report that the islands had already been made a temporary haven for refugees by action of Governor Lawrence Cramer, but officials said an effort was being made to determine how such action could be taken legally, and added that if the legal means were found the haven for refugees would be established.

It is reported that Gov. Cramer has received a petition from the Virgin Islands’ Assembly urging the opening of the territory as a temporary station for European refugees. The petition was prompted by the territory’s difficult economic situation and the belief that entry of refugees would prove an economic asset, since they would not be able to work, but would spend money and would require housing and other facilities.

It is understood maintenance of the refugees would have to be guaranteed by their relatives in the United States. They would have to meet all the requirements, on which the State, Justice and Interior Departments will agree. Preference for admission to the islands would be given to those who hold United States quota numbers and for whom immigration permits are due soon.

Jewish and non-Jewish welfare organizations in the United States interested in relieving congestion of refugees in Portugal and France will be invited to a conference soon to discuss plans for care of the refugees during their stay in the Virgin Islands, it was stated here today.

It is understood the refugees would be housed chiefly in St. Thomas, capital of the islands, and that each refugee admitted would have to prove that he had sufficient income to live without working. The number of refugees admitted would not exceed several hundred during an experimental period of several months.

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