868.51 Refugee Settlement Commission/13

The Secretary of State to the British Ambassador ( Geddes )11

Excellency: The problem presented by the evacuation to Greek territory of almost a million refugees has appealed to the humanitarian sentiment of all countries and has severely taxed the resources of the relief organizations which have been supported in their work by the generosity and initiative of the governments and peoples of [Page 330] many countries. I am confident, therefore, that I correctly interpret the sentiment of those who are interested in this work in stating that the common objective is to find for the relief problem a solution which will be definite and constructive. It is with this end in view that I take occasion to call this subject briefly to Your Excellency’s attention.

Deeply affected by the sufferings of refugees in the Near East, the American people, through the agencies of the American Red Cross and the Near East Relief, have been participating in relief work organized to meet the emergencies which have arisen in the Near East during the past few years and particularly to help to alleviate the acute suffering which followed the recent mass evacuations.

Immediately after the fall of Smyrna the American Red Cross and the Near East Relief organized relief work among the refugees under an arrangement between the two organizations, according to which the Red Cross assumed responsibility for the American relief work in Greece while the Near East Relief has cared for refugees in Turkey. Thus the Bed Cross for the past five months has provided for approximately 868,000 refugees assembled in camps in various localities throughout the mainland of Greece and the Islands of the Eastern Mediterranean. At the present time more than 500,000 refugees are dependent entirely upon food supplies furnished by the Red Cross.

It is clear, however, that the feeding of great camps of refugees cannot and should not continue indefinitely. The solution of the problem can hardly lie in measures of temporary relief alone—though they are essential to meet an emergency such as has recently arisen in the Near East—but, rather, in such a disposition of the refugees as will enable them to be absorbed as promptly as possible into the normal economic life of the country where they find themselves.

The American Red Cross has therefore felt that a definite decision should be reached as to the date of terminating emergency relief work in Greece and that an announcement of this decision should be made well in advance of carrying it into effect, in order to give the Greek authorities and other interested agencies an opportunity to make suitable provision for the future. To postpone such action and to continue the mass feeding, in the opinion of those competent to judge, might only tend to delay vigorous measures for a more permanent solution of the refugee problem. The American Red Cross is therefore announcing the termination of its emergency relief work in Greece on June 30, 1923.

The Near East Relief is prepared, to the extent of its ability, to continue its child welfare work, including the support of 65,000 [Page 331] wholly dependent orphans now in its charge in the Caucasus, Greece, Syria and elsewhere, and to continue supplementary child welfare work for a larger number. But it is anxious to terminate at the earliest possible moment the emergency relief to adult refugees, of whom approximately 100,000 are now receiving relief from this organization.

The problem of finding permanent homes for the refugees is one, however, which is not within the scope of private relief agencies. It will require the cordial cooperation of the local authorities where the refugees may be situated, and of the Powers whose territorial and other interests in the Mediterranean area may make it possible for them to assist.

One phase of the question which is of particular concern relates to the future of the Armenians in the Near East, since it is a grave question whether Greece, in addition to the refugees of Greek race and religion, will be in a position to care for many thousands of Armenians. In the latter case it will be necessary to consider what disposition may be made of the Armenians who may have temporarily found refuge in Greece.

If a constructive plan can be worked out for an apportionment of the task and for the gradual solution of the refugee problem, American relief agencies will be ready to cooperate, even after the termination of the emergency relief work of the American Red Cross on June 30th, next.

In bringing these considerations to Your Excellency’s attention, I take occasion to suggest that if His Majesty’s Government be disposed to concur as to the desirability of coordinated action to liquidate the relief emergency in the Near East, an early exchange of views would be desirable.

A similar communication is being addressed to the French and Italian Governments, and the Greek authorities are being informed of the decision of the Red Cross to terminate emergency feeding operations in Greece on June 30th.

Accept [etc.]

Charles E. Hughes
  1. The same, mutatis mutandis, to the French and Italian Ambassadors.