Written statement by R.A. Butler on evacuations
Spanish Sailors File
Return to Mr Tewson
Mar 20 1939
The policy of His Majesty's Government in regard to the evacuation of refugees from Spanish Republican territory was contained in a statement by the Prime Minister on March 8th:
"His Majesty's Government are not prepared to act without the concurence of the Spanish Government, but, in the event of an agreement being reached between the latter and some responsible authority on the Republican side for the safeguarding and the evacuation of refugees, prisoners and others they would be prepared to consider assisting in the execution of the agreement if asked to do so and if satisfied that their assistance was required for humanitarian reasons."
His Majesty's Government feel that the consent of the Spanish Government is an essential prerequisite of any mass evacuations from the remaining Republican territory for a number of reasons.
In the first place, the ports through which the evacuations would have to take place are subject to constant air raids by the Spanish Government air force and we should not feel Justified in asking His Majesty's ships to take the risk of evacuating large numbers of Spanish refugees unless some guarantee were obtained that the ports would be immune from air bombardment at the times when the evacuations were taking place. Apart, however, from this practical consideration it is important to remember that many of those who desire to be evacuated from Republican territory are likely to be accused by the Spanish Government of the very gravest crimes. If we were to facilitate the escape of such persons, we should be likely to be accused with some justification of adopting an unfriendly attitude towards the Spanish Government. Furthermore, we have obtained from General Franco assurances that the death penalty will only