840.48 Refugees/3010

Memorandum of Conversation, by Mr. Elbridge Durbrow of the Division of European Affairs

Participants: Mr. Norman Davis, Chairman; Mr. Richard F. Allen, American Red Cross; Mr. Ralph Bain, Red Cross Representative in the Middle East; Mr. Paul H. Alling, Mr. Gordon Merriam and Mr. Elbridge Durbrow of the State Department.

In connection with the question of United Nations refugees in the Middle East, Mr. Alling, Mr. Merriam and Mr. Durbrow called on Mr. Davis to discuss with him the recommendation contained in telegram 999 of June 15, 5 p.m. from Mr. Kirk18 urging that an inter-Allied command be immediately set up in the Near East to coordinate and handle all questions involving refugees.

Mr. Davis read Mr. Alling’s memorandum of June 25 to Mr. Welles which had been prepared on this question. Mr. Alling stated that on the basis of previous conferences held he believed that the Red Cross was in favor of establishing such a committee.

Mr. Davis replied that in as much as most of the United Nations refugees concentrated in the Middle East are residing in countries under the control of the British Government and are receiving aid and assistance from the British military authorities, he believed that it would be advisable to have the British authorities handle this entire matter rather than to try to set up an inter-governmental committee. Mr. Davis explained that he had the impression that the committee proposed by Mr. Kirk would be more appropriate for handling postwar problems rather than the actual problem of assistance to refugees at the present time, and, therefore, he indicated that he was not in favor of endeavoring to set up such a committee at this time.

In this connection he pointed out that there has already been established an inter-governmental committee in Washington which is at present dealing with post-war refugee problems and that if a similar committee were established in the Middle East there would be unnecessary duplication of work.

Mr. Bain, the Red Cross representative in the Middle East, who has just returned from Cairo, explained that there had recently been established in Cairo a committee known as the Middle East Relief and Refugee Administration under the Minister of State which at present was coordinating all British relief in that area. He added that he believed that this new Committee was functioning smoothly, had brought under its control all the various relief activities which had been carried on previously by various non-related organizations [Page 463] and that he had discussed the matter with Mr. Kirk who is of the opinion that this new Committee could handle all relief problems in that area.

Mr. Davis stated that he preferred to have the British authorities alone handle all relief problems of the Middle East since they were the responsible authorities in these countries, but added that the American Red Cross would be pleased to cooperate in any way with the Committee and furnish such supplies as it might be able to send to the Middle East.

In this connection he stated that, although the Red Cross had certain supplies in the Middle East, it would be very difficult to increase these supplies by shipment from the United States in any great quantities due to the acute shortage of cargo space.

It was pointed out to Mr. Davis that a misunderstanding of the attitude of the Red Cross had arisen in the Department owing to the statement in Mr. Davis’ letter of June 19 that he and Mr. Allen agreed “that this is primarily a governmental problem and concur in the recommendations of Alex Kirk.”

In view of the statements made by Mr. Bain, and Mr. Davis’ feeling that an inter-governmental committee was not needed at this time, Mr. Alling suggested that he would draft a telegram to Mr. Kirk indicating that the Department approved the handling of the refugee problem by the present Middle East Relief and Refugee Administration and that the American Red Cross would cooperate. In every possible way with this Committee in assisting United Nations refugees in that area. The impression was gained, however, that the Red Cross did not feel that it could take the initiative in handling relief activities in the Middle East since it felt that the primary responsibility rested with the British and the transport problem from the United States would preclude the possibility of its taking a too active part in this work.

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