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Far East Routes (Jewish Passengers)

Volume 527: debated on Wednesday 19 May 1954

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asked the Minister of Transport and Civil Aviation if he is aware that the British Overseas Airways Corporation have issued instructions which put difficulty in the way of Jews of British or other nationality desiring to travel to Iraq or to the Far East on a route which stops in Bagdad in transit; and if he will consult with the Corporation with a view to giving a direction under Section 5 of the Air Corporations Act, 1949, to ensure that such discrimination is not permitted in future.

The Corporation's instructions to their staff are due to an Iraqi regulation of 1950 and have been in existence ever since.

Is the Minister aware that this is an extremely serious matter, that it is a shocking case of discrimination, and will he do something about remedying the position? Does he accept the position where the Iraqi Government is insisting upon British nationals not being allowed to travel on B.O.A.C. aero-planes?

So far as I am aware the Iraqi Government regulations require that members of the Jewish faith must have special visas when passing through Iraq. If they have the visas, B.O.A.C. will gladly carry them. These instructions were issued entirely in the interests of the Jewish passengers and to avoid embarrassment and inconvenience.

Is the hon. Gentleman not aware that it is the considered policy and has been since 1950, as he says, to refuse any visa to any Jew in whatever kind of aeroplane he crosses their territory, and does not the refusal of our Government to take any steps in the matter mean connivance in discrimination against British subjects travelling in British aeroplanes?

I can only answer the Question that is put on the Paper, and I can assure the hon. Gentleman that these regulations have been made in the interests of the Jewish passengers. I have no reason to suspect that any British Jew has so far been stopped in transit. Nothing of the sort has been brought to my notice, but the facts concerning this problem go far wider than my own responsibility.

Can my hon. Friend tell us whether this also applies to the staff of B.O.A.C. who might be flying that way? Can he assure us that in no circumstances will Jews be forbidden to join B.O.A.C. because they might have to work in that area?

These regulations apply to any member of the Jewish faith, but I must point out that there are two other ways whereby members of the Jewish faith may reach Far Eastern destinations. I can assure my hon. Friend that there is no discrimination in employing members of the Jewish faith in the B.O.A.C. organisation because of this.

In view of the unsatisfactory nature of the reply, I beg to give notice that I shall raise this matter on the Adjournment.