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Inspection of Emigrants at the Port of Liverpool

Liverpool is one of the four principal ports of Europe for the embarkation of emigrants, the others being Naples, Bremen, and Hamburg. Emigrants from all parts of northern and eastern Europe pass through the port.

The majority of the people from the Continent land at Hull or Grimsby, where they are taken in charge by representatives of the Liverpool lines and directed to their port of embarkation.

Several agents of the commission employed in the investigation of steerage conditions on trans-Atlantic ships passed through the port of Liverpool in the guise of emigrants. One of these agents describes his experiences there as follows:

On my arrival at Liverpool we were separated into groups once more. Those destined for the White Star Line and the Dominion Line were met by the agents of those companies; we were met by an agent of the Cunard Line.

Large busses with a seating capacity ranging from 6 to 25 awaited us right at the depot. Our hand baggage was put on top and off we went to the hotel. On our way we were divided again as to nationality, for the companies named try as far as possible to keep each nationality under one roof, or at least in one part of the hotel, thus avoiding unnecessary difficulties.

Here my booted Polish friends and their crying children left me for a time to meet me again on board the [Name of Ship Redacted]. I was sent to the Scandinavian Hotel because they took me for a Scandinavian.

The Cunard Hotel system is a village by itself in the center of Liverpool, and consists of several buildings, holding over 2,000 guests if need be. In those hotels second as well as third class passengers may remain until their steamer departs, entirely free of charge.

At the Hotel Cunard, where we stayed, we were welcomed by a matron and a hotel keeper in the uniform of the Cunard Steamship Company. We were asked most kindly to eat something before we retired. I said I did not care for anything, but they insisted that I should eat something or at least drink a glass of milk.

Then my room was shown to me. It held 10 beds and was well ventilated and provided with steam heat and electric lights. Both beds and floor were clean. I did not see any room in this hotel with more than 15 beds in it. Women are strictly separated from men in the sleeping rooms.

There are two dining rooms, one with a seating capacity of about 500, one with 200. The meals are wholesome. A printed menu was found in several conspicuous places. The Hebrews who stay in a separate hotel get kosher cooked meals.

The toilet and bathrooms were strictly sanitary and every part of them is marble and tile lined. The water-closets have running water. The hotel provided towels and soap. Mostly all the hotel employees were Britonized foreigners, so as to be able to understand the foreign-speaking guests. In our Scandinavian hotel for instance nearly all the employees were Swedes.

The hotel or emigrant boarding-house system above described is similar to those maintained by the other steamship lines carrying passengers from Liverpool.

On the arrival of emigrants at the steamship boarding houses they are examined by resident physicians of the steamship companies who visit the houses daily. In cases or suspected cases of infectious or contagious disease the emigrants are either rejected or held for further observation.

While the majority of rejections at Liverpool are made at the boarding houses, a considerable number are turned back at the steamer on the day of sailing. Emigrants are required to board the ship several hours before sailing, and there the final examination is made.

At this time emigrants are examined by one of the resident physicians of the steamship company, by the ship's doctor, and finally by a medical officer representing the British Board of Trade.

Under the British law one or more board of trade physicians are stationed at every port from which emigrants sail, and at the time of the committee's visit the services of four such medical officers were required in connection with the embarkation of emigrants at Liverpool.

When the examination is concluded a representative of the American consulate stamps with the consular seal the inspection cards of those passed.

As previously explained, the British Board of Trade doctors do not inspect emigrants for defects contemplated by the United States immigration law, and do not regard trachoma as a dangerous disease within the meaning of the British merchant shipping act.

Consequently steamship companies are forced to exercise every precaution to prevent the embarkation of persons likely to be rejected at United States ports. As usual, particular attention is paid to trachoma, and eye specialists are employed by the various lines to examine for this disease.

The various steamship companies at Liverpool endeavor to have their agents on the continent require a medical examination of intended emigrants in connection with the sale of tickets, and it was stated that some of the companies allow a fixed sum to cover the cost of such examination. Cabin passengers are not medically examined at Liverpool.

When cholera, plague, or other infectious or contagious diseases prevail in continental countries from which emigrants come such emigrants are detained at Liverpool for at least five days, and are examined daily by the steamship company's resident physician, who, after the completion of the observation, certifies to the American consul that he has made a daily inspection of the detained persons, that they are free from disease, and that they will sail on the ship specified.

Until this certificate is presented the consular bill of health is not issued. On the arrival of passengers from infected districts arrangements are made for the disinfection of their effects under the supervision of the American consulate.

This baggage is disinfected in accordance with the United States quarantine laws and regulations. A representative of the American consulate is always present while the disinfecting process is in progress and does not leave the premises until it is completed.

The committee was informed that the various steamship companies are always ready to carry out the requirements and suggestions of the consulate.

Hon. John L. Griffiths, American consul at Liverpool, at the time of the Commission's inspection, made the following statement relative to the situation at that port:

I have given a great deal of attention to the matter of the examination of third-class passengers sailing from this port to America and think that the examinations by the medical representatives of the Government and by the ships' surgeons are In the main satisfactory.

I have had recently an illustration at this consulate of the rigid character of these medical examinations.

An Armenian girl has been detained in Liverpool for over six months on account of trachoma, and has been pronounced cured by the physician attending her, and after such pronouncement has been twice rejected, the first time by the White Star Line, and the second time by the Cunard Company.

The fact that the steamship companies are required to bring back all rejected passengers and are penalized for taking them over to America Is of course, as you recognize, a most efficient safeguard.

I have talked frequently with the medical officers who conduct the examinations for the Government and for the steamship companies, and have been impressed with their sincere desire to do everything they possibly can to prevent the sailing of any persons who are tainted with a contagious or infectious disease.

Each third-class passenger is required to submit to at least three medical examinations before being finally accepted or rejected. I required an affidavit from the ship's doctor as to all rejected passengers and the cause of rejection, so that evidence may be preserved of these facts.

There is a representative from the consulate present at the final examination of third-class passengers sailing from Liverpool to American ports, and while he is not a medical expert and does not in any way control the medical examination, he does not stamp the " Inspection card" until after the passenger has been medically examined and approved.

Example of an Inspection Card for Immigrants and Steerage Passengers, Stamped in Liverpool on 5 June 1901 as Inspected and Passed for a Norwegian Immigrant from Trondjem traveling on the White Star Line Steamship R.M.S. Oceanic.

In addition to this the vice-consul or myself is present from time to time at these examinations. During the three years and more that I have been at the Liverpool consulate there has been no complaint as to ill-treatment of any sort on the part of third-class passengers, or of inadequate accommodations, or inefficient or unpalatable food at the boarding houses in Liverpool which are maintained by the steamship companies.

It is the practice of steamship companies at Liverpool to detain in that city all rejected steerage passengers whose physical disabilities, in the opinion of the company s physician, would be likely to yield to medical treatment within a reasonable time.

But this is only done when the company is assured by reliable persons or societies that the emigrant will be produced when demanded by the steamship company or-the inspector appointed under the British aliens act.

This act permits the transmigration through England of diseased or otherwise undesirable aliens who would not be permitted to remain in that country, and emigrants other than British finally rejected at British ports are deported to the country whence they came.

The British inspector is advised when emigrants are detained for treatment, as above explained, and is also informed as to the final disposition of case. The cost of the detention of diseased emigrants held for treatment is defrayed in various ways. In the case of Hebrews it is sometimes borne by the Jewish board of guardians, and sometimes by other charitable organizations, and in some cases the steamship companies meet the expense.

"The Port of Liverpool," in Report of the Immigration Commission, Emigration Conditions in Europe, Government Printing Office, Washington,DC, 1911, Pages 85-88.

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