The Under Secretary of State (Phillips) to the Chairman of the American Red Cross (Payne)

My Dear Judge Payne: I have given careful consideration to your letter of February 19th enclosing a copy of a recent report from Colonel Haskell regarding refugee relief work in Greece and suggesting prompt consideration of the recommendation that the Red Cross cease its operations in Greece in June and make an early announcement of that fact. You have asked for my suggestions and a definite expression of my views on this point.

I quite agree that it is reasonable that a definite decision should be reached as soon as possible as to the date of ceasing emergency relief work in Greece and that an announcement of this decision should be made some time in advance of carrying it into effect in order to give the Greek authorities and other interested parties an opportunity to make suitable provision for taking over the work.

It is clear that the feeding of great camps of refugees cannot and should not go on forever. This summer, when climatic conditions will be most favorable for arranging for the distribution of the refugees, seems the logical and proper time for the Red Cross to terminate its emergency work.

The solution of the refugee problem cannot lie in endless charity or mass feeding in concentration camps—measures essential to meet [Page 320] an emergency such as has obtained in the Near East—but in the disposition of the refugees in a manner to make them self-supporting as a part of the economic life of the country. While the Red Cross undoubtedly can help in this work, the primary responsibility for such a program would rest with the Greek authorities or with the governments of the territories where the refugees may eventually be located. To continue the mass feeding beyond the present summer might only tend to delay vigorous action to work out such a solution.

How far Greece may be in a position to absorb the refugees into the economic life of the country is a serious question, as is indicated not only by the reports of Colonel Haskell and Doctor Hill but by those which the Department has received. To effect this certain readjustments will certainly be necessary.

The question of the Armenian refugees is one of particular concern to this Department. Whether, in addition to the refugees of Greek race and religion, Greece will be in a position to care for many thousands of Armenians is questionable, and it may be important to look forward to plans for finding homes elsewhere for Armenian refugees now in Greece.

In his letter of January 29 Colonel Haskell has referred to the possible return of the refugees to their homes in Turkey.2 While I agree that a normal solution of the refugee problem would be to send them back, as far as possible, to their homes and to the surroundings from which they have come, I fear that this will not be practicable in the immediate future, in view of existing political conditions and of the Convention between Greece and Turkey, signed at Lausanne on January 30th, which provides for the exchange of populations.3 Article I of the Convention provides that refugees will not be allowed to reestablish themselves in Turkey or Greece, respectively, without the authorization of the Turkish or the Greek Government and Article VII indicates that the Greek refugees who have already fled to Greece will acquire Greek nationality with the signature of the Convention.

I have made this somewhat detailed summary of the refugee situation as it presents itself to the Department, with a view to suggesting the formulation of a plan for constructive action on behalf of the refugees at the time when the emergency relief work is terminated. The action which I would suggest is as follows: [Page 321]

That the Red Cross should prepare a comprehensive report of its relief work in Greece and of its decision to terminate the emergency feeding of refugees on a certain date.
That this report should be communicated by the Department to the British, French and Italian Governments at the same time as it may be made public in this country or furnished to the Greek authorities.
That the Department should call the attention of these governments to the importance of early action to effect a more permanent disposition of the refugees and to find homes for the Armenian refugees for whom Greece may not be able to make provision.

I feel that this course of action might have the result not only of lending added force and publicity to the decision of the Red Cross to terminate its emergency work but also might lead to the adoption of some constructive program for the future.

If the Red Cross agrees as to the utility of such action and would be willing to assist if a program of constructive work for the disposition of the refugees were formulated, the Department would be glad to consult with you as to the method of carrying this proposal into effect at the earliest possible moment. Meanwhile I presume no publicity will be given to the proposed termination of American Red Cross activities in Greece.

Very sincerely yours,

William Phillips
  1. The comments of Colonel Haskell on this point are omitted from the extract of his letter printed on page 318.
  2. For text of convention, see Great Britain, Cmd. 1929, Treaty Series No. 16 (1923): Treaty of Peace with Turkey … together with Agreements between Greece and Turkey signed on January SO, 1928, etc., p. 187.