The General Secretary, Near East Relief ( Vickrey ) to the Under Secretary of State ( Phillips )

Sir: Confirming our conversation of last Saturday, I submit herewith a copy of the Report of Near East Relief that has been presented to Congress for the calendar year 1922.4

Replying more specifically to the questions that were suggested in the course of our conversation, I submit the following statements:

1. Total Relief Disbursements since 1915:

The total relief disbursements in the Near East as shown by page 11 of the accompanying Auditor’s Report, were $60,890,194.75. This Auditor’s Report of cash disbursements, however, does not include flour secured through the U. S. Grain Corporation and the American Relief Administration, valued at $12,800,000. Nor does it include certain other contributions of clothing, commodities and medical supplies which would bring the total of relief disbursements under the general direction of Near East Relief in this area to December 31, 1922, to $82,266,548.38.

2. Total Relief Disbursements for the calendar year 1922:

The relief disbursements for the calendar year 1922, as shown on page 10 of the accompanying Auditor’s Report, amounted to $11,649,695.32.

3. Emergency Relief:

As to the proportion of the above disbursements that may be classified as “emergency relief”, we might, without serious inaccuracy, call all of it “emergency relief,” since even our orphanage and child welfare work was originally caused, and during the past year has been greatly increased by war, evacuations, deportations, fire and other disasters wholly beyond the control of the helpless, and for the most part, innocent victims.

In a more restricted sense however, of the phrase “emergency relief”, our work for the past year will divide itself into two almost exactly equal portions:

Our so-called normal orphanage or child welfare budget would not exceed $6,000,000.
The special emergency work resulting from the Smyrna fire and related disasters, the evacuation of the Cilician, Marmora and Black Sea ports, the feeding and care of refugees at Black Sea and Cilician ports and in transit [Page 324] from Asia to Greece, the transfer of children from our orphanages in Anatolia to Greece and Northern Syria, and other emergency expenses, resulting from recent military and political changes in the Near East, account for the additional expenditures of the year 1922, amounting to $5,649,695.32.

4. Plans for immediate future—General Relief:

As to plans for the immediate future, we would like to be relieved immediately of all responsibility in connection with adult refugee or general relief work.

The emergency relief work of the past few months has practically absorbed all of our reserve resources, in addition to the funds received in response to the special emergency appeal. We have not the resources with which to continue indefinitely, general refugee relief, and moreover, feel that it is a burden that should be borne by the responsible governments. We have at no time given relief to adult refugees if there was any prospect of securing the necessary food or shelter from government or other sources. Likewise, we have never given relief free of charge if there was any possibility of providing work for the destitute.

The situation, however, at Smyrna and on the islands of the Aegean, immediately following the Smyrna fire and later among the refugees from Anatolia, crowding into the Black Sea ports, Constantinople, the ports of Cilicia and North Syria, were such as to make self-support wholly impossible, and relief from the responsible government manifestly impracticable. Under these circumstances, our relief workers, with their organization covering the area for orphanage and child welfare work, felt there was no alternative but to extend their operations to the starving and the destitute, regardless of age or sex, though a disproportionately large number of the refugees were women and children.

As to the immediate future, we can possibly [, by] straining our resources, continue to give general relief for another two or three months, and as conditions are at present among the refugees in the Black Sea ports, Constantinople, Aleppo and Northern Syria, we do not see how we can refuse some general relief without practically pronouncing death sentence upon unfortunate women and children, who, for the most part, are innocent of any crime. We feel strongly, however, that this burden should be shifted to responsible governments, and we will probably be obliged soon to discontinue general relief from sheer lack of adequate private resources.

5. Plans for immediate future—Orphanage or Child Welfare Work:

Our policy with reference to the continuation of orphanage or child welfare work will, in part, depend upon the desires of our own government.

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We feel that we now have a constituency and organization throughout the United States that will support us, if requested, in continuing our child welfare program, which, for the immediate future may involve a budget of approximately $6,000,000. per year, but decreasing gradually each year as the children leave our institutions or through the development of industrial relief, are brought to self support.

This child welfare work at present, in addition to the children in refugee camps and concentration centers, includes 25,000 orphans who are now being cared for in Russian Armenia, all Armenians, and most of them of Turkish origin; 15,000 in Greece, of whom at least 10,000 are Armenians and therefore not properly a charge upon the Greek Government; 11,000 in Syria, of whom 10,000 are Armenians; and probably less than 5,000 in Northwest Persia, Constantinople and elsewhere.

So far as the financial burden is concerned, we can probably, with the continued cooperation of the American public, provide the necessary support for the orphanage and child welfare work if desired.

Most of these children, so far as we can ascertain, have no known responsible relative upon whom their support can be thrown, and most of them have no legal claim upon any government that is sufficiently sympathetic to accept responsibility for their support.

Aside from the humanitarian phases of this child welfare work, we see in it a strategic opportunity for the expression of American altruism and sending forth from these orphanages ambassadors of good will, industrial progress and international cooperation.

While willing to continue, for the present, the care of such orphans as cannot be returned to their relatives or otherwise provided for, we earnestly request that we be relieved at the earliest possible moment of all responsibility in connection with adult relief work.

May we respectfully suggest, that it may be desirable to draw two rather clear lines of demarkation in any analysis or proposed solution of the relief problem in the Near East?

1. A distinction may be made between,

the refugees, Greek and Armenian, who are now in Greece, under friendly sympathetic government, and who at the present time are being cared for by the American Red Cross with some government cooperation, and
the refugees, who, though driven or removed from their homes in Anatolia, are still on Turkish or Asiatic soil. These latter dare not return to their former homes; they cannot as yet find passage, welcome or a satisfactory haven in a foreign land. They are under the military control of a confessedly unfriendly government. They are legally citizens of Turkey, but practically without a country to [Page 326] which they can look for sympathetic cooperation in regaining self-support.

It is evident that more time will be required to re-establish the second class, who are still on Asiatic soil, than will be required for the former on European soil, and it may be necessary to continue general relief in Asia for a somewhat longer period than will be necessary in Greece. In both areas however, general relief from America should be discontinued as early as practicable without unnecessary loss of life.

2. A distinction may be drawn between,

general or adult relief, and
orphanage or child welfare work.

Adult relief should certainly be discontinued as soon as any provision can be made for government aid or work to provide the necessities of life. Likewise the support of Greek or other orphans, who are on their native soil and under sympathetic government, should be transferred as rapidly as possible to the responsible government.

In the case of those orphans, however, who were born or whose parents were born in the Ottoman empire, and who therefore have no legal or national claim upon any friendly government, it does not seem equally practicable to throw their support upon foreign governments that have generously given them a haven of refuge, but which have no legal responsibility for providing for their continued work.

We assume that any statement given to the public concerning the discontinuance or the transfer of responsibility for refugee work in Greece, will be so phrased as not to jeopardize the continued financial support of such orphanage, child welfare and other apparently necessary phases of relief work in the Near East as may be approved by the Department, and possibly the statement can be made to assist materially such work.

We will be very glad to cooperate with the Department in any further consideration of solutions of this problem.

Respectfulty yours,

Charles V. Vickrey
  1. See S. Doc. No. 343, 67th Cong., 4th sess.