Kindertransport refugees hit out at Israeli plan to deport kids

Empathy: Sir Eric Reich

Empathy: Sir Eric Reich

A number of former refugees who came to Britain as children on the Kindertransport have spoken out against Israel's plan to deport the children of illegal foreign workers.

Sir Erich Reich, who arrived in the UK from Nazi-occupied Austria at the age of four, said: "I don't know the ins and outs but psychologically, the idea of deporting children is contrary to our past and what we believe in."

The travel entrepreneur, who has himself lived in Israel, added: "My view is that one needs to think very carefully before going ahead. It seems sad that the children who have been living in Israel, speak Hebrew and have friends are being asked to leave."

The government's proposal has already been denounced as "inhumane" by the heads of Israel's umbrella organisation for Holocaust survivors.

Unless Israel's courts intervene, 400 children are due to be deported with their families because a parent has remained in the country illegally. However, 800 children who have been living in Israel over a longer period have been allowed to stay.

Fred Barschak, another former Kinder, commented: "When an Israeli government, instead of punishing the firms that bring in and employ illegal immigrant labour - fines for such behaviour are derisory - chooses instead the soft option of deporting 400 young children born in the country, that decision is unconscionable.

"The Holocaust survivors organisation of Israel has formally protested. So now has Mrs Netanyahu [the Prime Minister's wife]. Jews do not deport children - especially when the government that wishes to do the deporting is indirectly responsible for their being in the country in the first place."

Professor Leslie Brent, the immunologist who recently published his memoir Sunday's Child, said: "As one who escaped the horrors of Nazi Germany by having been sent to England in a Kindertransport, I do have very strong views on inhumane governmental decisions, whether they happen in this country, in Israel or anywhere else.

"To deport children who have spent all or most of their lives in Israel and are to all intents and purposes Israelis is such a decision, and I am very glad that it is being opposed by Holocaust survivors in Israel.

"But why only by Holocaust survivors? I would have thought that all citizens with a sense of justice and fairmindedness and compassion would want to strongly oppose this move."

Another former Kinder, the Reverend Bernd Koschland, chaplain to the Royal Free Hospital, said that while Israel was entitled to take steps to prevent illegal immigration, if the children "were there and settled down, I would leave them be".

Last updated: 1:32pm, August 26 2010