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Argentina (Disabled Poles, Repatriation)

Volume 446: debated on Wednesday 28 January 1948

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18.

asked the Secretary of State for Foreign Affairs if he will make a statement on the result of his representations to the Argentine Government on behalf of a number of disabled Polish soldiers, formerly domiciled in the Argentine, who have been awaiting repatriation for a considerable time at the Polish Military Convalescent Depot, Hermitage, Newbury; whether, in view of the assurances given by the Minister of Pensions, the Argentine Government have now waived their objections to the readmission of these men to the Argentine, such objection being based on the apprehension that the men, being disabled, might become a charge on the State; and how much longer he expects that these men, who volunteered to fight in the Allied cause, will be prevented from rejoining their families in the Argentine.

The facts have been fully explained to the Argentine authorities, but it is now clear that their decision is not affected by the award or refusal of pensions. The House, I know, will be unanimous in hoping that, on humanitarian grounds, these men will not be much longer prevented from rejoining their families.

Will my right hon. Friend bear in mind that one of the hardest parts of this case is, that the men were shipped all the way to Argentina—demobilised and shipped back there—over a year ago, and then shipped back to this country because the Argentines would not admit them? Is not this separation from their families just as cruel, in its way, as the case of the Russian wives, about which hon. Members have expressed concern?

I am naturally not anxious to make comparisons, but I agree with my hon. Friend that this is a gross and unusual piece of red tape conflicting with plain humanitarian practice.

Can representations be made in the Argentine as to the situation that is arising every day by detaining these people in England and preventing them corresponding very easily with their families?

I was not aware of the second point, but I can assure the hon. Gentleman that we have been pressing the matter with all the means and all the arguments at our disposal.

What excuse have the Argentine Government made for procrastination and inhuman treatment of this kind?

On a point of Order. In order that hon. Members may have an opportunity to reinforce the efforts that I know my right hon. Friend has made, I beg to give notice that I shall endeavour to raise this matter again on the Adjournment at the earliest opportunity.