HAMBURG, West Germany — Two hundred thirty-five Polish tourists have failed to return to three ships docked at a West German port over the Christmas holidays, officials said Friday.
Federal Border Police said the first group of Poles failed to return from a Christmas Eve shopping excursion in the Baltic port of Travemuende, near the East German border.
So far, 68 Poles have applied for political asylum in Hamburg and more are expected to follow after the New Year holiday, a city official said. Under West German law, asylum is granted routinely to any Soviet Bloc citizen requesting it.
A group of tourists failed to return to the vessel Wilanow on Tuesday, another group did not reboard the Lancut on Wednesday and a third group did not return to the ferry Pomeranja on Thursday.
The ferries are used for shopping trips to the West and several hundred Poles have jumped ship this year, but this week's wave of refugees was the largest, border police said.
All 235 Poles have valid tourist visas for West Germany.
Several refugees, who did not want to be identified, said they decided not to return to Poland because of imminent rises in the cost of living, expected travel restrictions and gasoline and energy shortages. None said they left Poland for political reasons.
Hamburg has a big Polish community and the majority of the refugees who jumped ship at Travemuende have joined their countrymen here.
Police said that they were able to give a large group of refugees temporary accommodation in local hotels.
It was not known how many Poles had 72-hour visas and how many longer-term permits. "We expect at least 100 Poles to register with the local authorities within the next few days," a city official said.
Some Go Home
However, some of the refugees were expected to return to Poland after a few weeks, the official said. That was the pattern in November, 1984, when more than 300 Poles jumped ship in West Germany. Most of them asked for political asylum or wanted to emigrate to the United States, Canada or Britain, but many later decided to return home.
There have been a number of mass defections by Poles in recent years.
In July, 1984, four buses on a religious pilgrimage to the Vatican detoured to an Austrian refugee camp, where 120 Poles of Ukrainian background sought refuge.
Just before Christmas in 1981, 78 Polish seamen jumped ship in South Africa.
And in 1982 about 500 Poles remained in Spain and other countries after getting permission to leave their countries for the world soccer championships.