36. Miss Rathbone
asked the Home Secretary how many aliens are at present detained in prisons; how many of these are detained under deportation orders or their war-time equivalent; how many as war refugees awaiting further inquiry into their reliability; how many of the latter class have already been in prison for periods of over two months; and whether, in view of the hardship imposed on the political detainees of both classes by their detention in prison in association with ordinary remand prisoners suspected of criminal offences, he will arrange for their transfer to a separate prison or, preferably, to an internment camp?
§ The Under-Secretary of State for the Home Department (Mr. Peake)
The aliens to whom my hon. Friend refers are not detained on political grounds: they are detained on security grounds. As regards many of them it would be desirable, if it proves necessary to keep them under detention for a long period, that they should be accommodated in a camp or some other institution other than a prison. The difficulty of finding alternative accommodation at the present time is great, but the desirability of making special provision for these people as soon as practicable will be kept in mind. I am circulating in the OFFICIAL REPORT the information asked for in the remainder of the Question.
Is the hon. Gentleman aware that most of these people have been in prison for periods of more than three months? Could they not receive some kind of circular letter to inform them that they are detained until they can clear themselves and that their cases will be gone into, so that they will not feel that they are completely forgotten and are there for life?
§ Mr. Peake
I think the hon. Lady is under a misapprehension as to the character of a great many of these persons. The greater part of them are seamen who have been taken off Allied or 587 neutral vessels, whom we should like to repatriate to their country of origin but cannot at present. On the other point, we are trying to find accommodation outside British prisons.
§ Mr. Wedgwood
Is it not true that a large number of these unfortunates are Czech nationals who are in prison, denounced by someone and unable to get any opportunity of having their case heard?
§ Following is the information:
§ According to the latest available statistics, the number of aliens detained in prison, in Great Britain apart from those serving sentences, is 691. Of these 29 are awaiting deportation and 447 are detained under Article 12 (5A) of the Aliens Order, 1920, as amended, because their deportation is impracticable or prejudicial to the efficient prosecution of the war. The necessity of their continued detention is, however, reviewed periodically. Thirty-six are detained under the Royal Prerogative. Of the balance of 179 it has not been possible in the short time since the Question appeared on the Order Paper to ascertain how many are war refugees, but 15 who are known to be war refugees have been detained over two months. The others include seamen detained ashore at the request of the master of their ship; seamen and others refused leave to land and temporarily detained pending disposal; and some aliens detained under Defence Regulation 18B or 18D. As regards the last part of the Question, I can assure the hon. Member that none of these aliens is detained solely on political grounds and that they do not normally associate with ordinary remand prisoners. The question of their transfer to a camp or a separate institution is already under active consideration.