The Secretary General of the Nansen International Office for Refugees (Johnson) to the Secretary of State 1

Ref. No. A/80793/18766

Mr. Secretary of State: In his letter C.L.111.1935.XII, dated July 19, 1935, the Secretary General of the League of Nations has brought to the attention of your Government the great desire of the Intergovernmental Advisory Commission for Refugees and of the Assembly of the League of Nations to have information, concerning the possibility to have refugees settle on your territory, sent to the Nansen International Office for Refugees.

Referring to this communication, I am taking the liberty, in the present letter, to submit to you a few suggestions as to the information which the Nansen International Office would be glad to receive.

You will no doubt remember that the Nansen International Office for Refugees was created in 1931, following a resolution adopted by the Assembly of the League of Nations, on September 30, 1930.2 By this resolution, the Office was charged with the duty of carrying on with the tasks which were assigned to Dr. Nansen, High Commissioner of the League of Nations for Refugees. His chief purpose is to collect and to centralize information on the material and moral fate of refugees, to facilitate the settling of refugees and, to this end, to receive valuable data on the condition of labor in the countries of immigration.

The number of refugees over which the jurisdiction of the Office extends, and which includes Russian, Armenian, Assyrian, Assyro-Chaldean, Saar and Turkish refugees is about one million. Although they are capable of working, tens of thousands of these refugees are now without work in different countries. For the greater part, they reside in the following countries: Germany, Belgium, Bulgaria, China, the Baltic States, France, Greece, Rumania, Czechoslovakia and [Page 498] Yugoslavia. A large number of them are farmers who could easily become excellent colonists. Among these unemployed refugees, there are also physicians, engineers, technicians, architects, et cetera. The Office would therefore be in a position to recruit a large number of qualified and orderly persons.

The Office would therefore be very happy to be advised as to whether your government would be willing to give favorable consideration to a plan for the introduction upon its territories of a certain number of refugees, either as colonists, or as farm hands, technicians, and specialists, hired on the basis of labor contracts. If so, the Office would be very glad to know, with respect to the first, that is, the colonists, whether and upon what conditions your government would be willing to put the following at the disposal of families (of an average number of five members: two adults, and three children below fifteen years of age), as well as to groups of two or three single persons:

Partly cleared lands;
Seeds in sufficient amount;
The necessary live-stock;
The essential agricultural implements;
Modest living quarters, furnished with the strict necessities.

In addition it would be necessary to provide in any proposals which you might make, for the supplies to be given the refugees until such time as they might be in a position to take care of their own needs, as well as for their transportation from Europe to the port of landing and from the port of landing to the place of destination. These different loans should be computed as accurately as possible. In case your Government would not deem it possible to consider the allocation of the sum total of these loans as advances, it would be desirable to inform the Office as to the possibility of enlisting the cooperation of mortgage banks which would grant advances to the refugees on all or part of the sums necessary to take care of their transportation and settlement.

The Office, with its long experience in matters of settling refugees—among others it established, more than 30,000 Armenian refugees were established in Syria—knows that it is possible to recover a considerable part of the sums used for this purpose, if not all. That is why it would consider a similar procedure in the case of colonists to be established on your territory. The refugees would therefore be called upon to reimburse, within a certain amount of time, the amounts required for their establishment.

As regards the second class of refugees, that is, refugees who would be hired on the basis of labor contracts, the Office would like to know the conditions under which such labor could be utilized. As I have [Page 499] pointed out, the groups available for emigration included, in addition to farm laborers, many specialists in every field, and their greatest desire would be to find a haven in a country where their technical knowledge would be likely to be useful.

I would therefore highly appreciate it if, on the basis of this supplementary information, you would be kind enough to advise me of the decisions which you will have deemed it advisable to take with reference to the different recommendations to which I have referred at the beginning of this letter.

Of course, I shall be entirely at your disposal, in case you need any further information of a nature to facilitate your study of this problem.

I beg you to accept [etc.]

T. F. Johnson
  1. Transmitted by the Chargé in Switzerland in his despatch No. 4014, August 16; received August 23.
  2. League of Nations, Official Journal, November 1930, p. 1531.