Memorandum by the Chief of the Division of Near Eastern Affairs (Alling) to the Under Secretary of State (Welles)
Mr. Welles: Although it may be true that the problem of refugees in the Middle East is primarily a British responsibility, it seems clear, as Mr. Davis16 points out, that the British are unlikely to accept that responsibility. For that and other reasons it seems equally clear that the only solution is an intergovernmental commission along the lines suggested by Mr. Kirk.17 Additional reasons for entrusting [Page 461] this work to an intergovernmental committee rather than to the Red Cross may be suggested as follows:
- The problem is too vast for the Red Cross to handle;
- Only the Government can obtain the money cheaply. Money raised privately, as by the Near East Relief in the last war, costs more to collect and there is probably more waste in distribution than when Government accounting methods are used;
- To raise money privately, moreover, it would be necessary to conduct a campaign which the public should be spared in these days. In addition, since the largest refugee problem in the Near East is that of the Poles, sympathy for them could be worked up only by citing mistreatment by Soviet Russia. This obviously would be undesirable at the present time.
Presumably the most urgent need of these refugees is to be cleansed of diseases and built up physically. In this work the Red Cross would be valuable, as it has been to a limited extent already, notably in the case of the Polish refugees in Iran. Once the health of the refugees is built up, the problem arises what to do with them. It is at this point that an intergovernmental commission should step in. It is our impression that there is a great demand for labor of all types in connection with the large construction projects which are under way in Iran, Iraq, and Eritrea. Presumably many refugees could be absorbed in this type of work. Moreover, there would seem to be a good opportunity to establish refugees in considerable numbers in Ethiopia. We have recently had reports that Emperor Haile Sel-lassie has objected to the British plan to evacuate Italian nationals from his country. His objections were based on the theory that if these Italians were removed the roads and other public works which the Italian régime had instituted in Ethiopia would be allowed to deteriorate through lack of skilled labor to keep these installations in repair. The British, however, seem to be insisting that the Italians be removed. It would seem possible to replace them by Greeks, Poles and other refugees who should be competent to carry on the projects which have been built up in Ethiopia.
Obviously the first step in this matter, if it is agreed that an intergovernmental commission is required, should be discussions with the British Government. Through such discussions it should be possible to work out an organization on which presumably would sit representatives of some or all of the United Nations. I am at your disposition if you desire further information on this subject.