—Says British Ambassador
Mr. Sturrup To Organise
Foreign Office Hears About 975 Parents' Demands
A RESPONSIBLE AGENT FOR THE REPATRIATION OF THE BASQUE CHILDREN HAS BEEN APPOINTED BY THE NATIONALISTS. HE IS MR. F. G. STURRUP WHO REACHED LONDON ON WEDNESDAY. A NEW REPATRIATION COMMITTEE IS BEING FORMED IN LONDON WHICH WILL TAKE CHARGE OF THE WORK.
This change has been made as the result of the lack of confidence in the Basque Children's Committee on the part of the Nationalists and the parents. The Committee is held by them to be acting in the 'interests of their opponents.
Mr. Sturrup's work has prospered in Spain. He has taken 975 letters to the acting Vice-Consul in Bilbao and the latter together with Mr. Sturrup took the letters to the British Ambassador in Hendaye.
The Embassy, according to Mr. Sturrup, has examined them and is satisfied that conditions in Bilbao are suitable for the return of the children. The Embassy has communicated with the Foreign Office on the subject.
These active steps towards the repatriation have been taken at the very moment when the Basque Children's Committee has decided on a change of front. It now states that " it is sending at the earliest possible moment representatives to Bilbao to make the necessary enquiries."
The Catholic Herald understands that it is unlikely that the authorities in Bilbao will welcome any delegate front the Committee at this stage. Complaints are made in Bilbao by parents that they have received little or NO help from the Committee in discovering the whereabouts of their children, their state of health, etc.
The money at the disposal of the Catholic Herald to help the repatriation may make the work of direct repatriation, without the help of the Committee, more rapid.
PROPAGANDISTS SHOWN UP
In view of the charge made by the Basque Children's Committee in its latest statement, namely, that "it strongly deprecates the attempts being made in some quarters to use the children for propaganda purposes," the Catholic Herald publishes this week IN FULL the "Report of Propaganda Activities," sent from London to the Basque Government, a report of which
was published last week.
Readers will judge for themselves between the efforts of the Catholic Herald to fulfil the basic Christian and humanitarian duty of restoring children to their parents, when the latter ask for them, and the whole story of how these children came to be evacuated from Bilbao and accepted by the Government of this country.
FULL TEXT ON PAGE 12.
In the course of the text, the editor of the Catholic Herald has inserted an important note based on information received by him as to the wholly wise action of the Archbishop of Westminster in regard to the evacuation of the children and the religious care for them while in this country.
The documentary evidence already given in previous issues about the parents' demands is converted from dry bones into living, feeling reality by Fr. Cabana, who describes in an article below what the parents are saying and doing in Bilbao.
JOINT COMMITTEE'S FAILURE
Within the space of a quarter of an hour the Catholic Herald received by telephone two urgent messages about the Basque children.
The first came from the Press Department of the Basque Children's Committee.
It staled that the Committee had received only 39 authenticated requests to date for the return of children to their homes.
The second came from the Nationalist repatriation officer, who had just arrived in London. It stated that the British Ambassador at Hendaye had been given 975 letters requesting the return of children to their homes.
In that extraordinary contrast is revealed the failure of the Joint Committee to deal with the problem of the Basque children in its essential humanitarian and Christian aspect as the Spanish people understand it: the returning of children to their own parents where the latter wanted them and were satisfied that the conditions were suitable for that return.
They Have Failed
The Committee has proudly pointed to the paucity of requests it has received and used this as a justification for its attitude of
passivity. The truth is that the Spanish people in Bilbao have no trust or faith in them.
No wonder they preferred to express their wishes through the medium of an English Catholic paper or their own chosen representatives. This is not surprising as while the members may be perfectly sincere the Committee has been used as a tool as is disclosed by the propaganda report published on page 12.
Mr. Sturrup's statement that the ViceConsul and the Ambassador himself have satisfied themselves of the genuineness of the demands and that the latter has written to the Foreign Office makes it likely that the hands of the Basque Children's Committee will shortly be forced.
The Catholic Herald, anxious only to keep the affair on a non-political basis, has been throughout willing to co-operate with this Committee, and would have been ready to welcome the profound change of front shown in the Committee's latest statement to the Press in which it denies that it wishes to keep the children longer than necessary, admits that the conditions in Bilbao are suitable for return—they
have been so for over six weeks—and proposes at last to take action.
Below, however, it sets out the account of the proceedings, as they have taken place to date, and in view of the story they tell, it is obliged to agree that it will be better for the work of repatriation to be undertaken by other hands.
It does not doubt that the members of the Committee have been actuated by sincere humanitarian motives, as they see them, but the fact, as it believes, that from the beginning the Committee was looked upon by the Basque Propaganda in London as a political tool has raised such a cloud of prejudice as to make it virtually impossible for its members to see filings in an impartial and objective Light.
(1) Six weeks ago, the Catholic Herald was receiving letters from Basque parents, the originals of which it possesses.
On venturing to approach the Committee on the matter, it was bluntly informed that the Committee looked upon the Catholic Press as biassed and would not recognise any evidence that was not authenticated by the consular authorities in Bilbao.
Instead of meeting us half-way to fulfil its humanitarian duty of restoring the children i' possible to their parents, it allowed its own political bias to show itself in declaring us biassed, and did absolutely nothing.
(2) Ready to co-operate with any of the Committee's demands, the Catholic Herald requested Basque parents to do their best to have their demands officially authenticated in Bilbao—a difficult enterprise for poor Spanish people, knowing no English and little about such official proceedings, and one especially complicated in the present uncertain diplomatic relationship between Britain and Franco's Spain. There is no proper consular authority in Bilbao. As a result of the co-operation of friends in Bilbao it was possible to draw up an official list of 333 names, which were published in this paper.
The Committee's only answer was to inform the Press that the names had not come spontaneously from the parents, but were due to our request for them! Presumably the Committee was