The Ambassador in France ( Bullitt ) to the Secretary of State
[Received 2:11 p.m.]
589. Your 211, March 28, 7 p.m. Foreign Office advises French Government does not contemplate convoying or protecting ships of foreign registry bearing refugees from Central Spain. Our informant stated that it was the belief here that the British view is identical with the French.
Foreign Office states the question has not been raised with it officially thus far. Recently the Military Junta at Madrid inquired through French Consul whether French Government would cooperate in the evacuation of some 10,000 persons from Central Spain destined for Mexico via Algeria, the evacuation to be by British vessels. An informal reply was made through Consul that the French would be glad to cooperate but could not understand the necessity of disembarkation of such refugees in Algeria and that the question would seem to lie between Great Britain and Mexico. The Military Junta did not press the question further. The Foreign Office suggested that were it found necessary the question raised by the Department could be taken up with the Franco authorities by the French Government on humanitarian grounds requesting the Franco authorities not to interfere with the departure of such refugees.
During the course of our conversation it was also learned that the Franco authorities are still accepting the return of but an insignificant number, approximately 300 daily, of the Spanish refugees now in France. It is hoped in a few days to increase this number to 6,000 or 7,000 daily. It was stated that the French Government has offered to assume the responsibility of feeding the refugees temporarily after their return to Spain, this because the Franco authorities, among other reasons, have been reluctant to accept large numbers of the refugees on account of the shortage of food and supplies.