548.G1/50: Telegram

The Consul General at Hamilton (Beck) to the Secretary of State

136. For Long from Dodds. Following is text of the first American draft proposal submitted to the British delegation tonight. It is hoped that this draft will afford a basis for discussion tomorrow and that it will be in general acceptable to the British. It follows closely various conclusions reached in conference to date:

“Recommendations arising out of the proposed utilization of the Intergovernmental Committee in connection with the solution of the problems presented by the refugees.

The American and British delegates to the Conference held at Bermuda have agreed to the submission of the following recommendations. These recommendations concern the role to be played by the Intergovernmental Committee in the solution of the pressing problems created by the existence of large masses of persons displaced by the present war. It is mutually recognized that this problem as it is now constituted can only be solved by the community of civilized nations. The problem is so great that it must not be permitted to become the sole burden of the United States and Great Britain.

Various means of obtaining concerted action between the nations interested in this problem have been considered and it is the unanimous convictions of the delegates to this Conference that the problem should be entrusted into the hands of the Intergovernmental Committee. It is hardly necessary at this time to discuss the factors which led the Conference to this conclusion. It is apparent, however, that as a result of this decision the future welfare of these refugees [Page 162] will be dependent upon the successful prosecution of the duties which may be entrusted to the Committee. Special care, therefore, must be taken to accurately define the scope of these duties and to extend wherever necessary the powers and responsibilities of the Committee. No lack of effort or interest may be permitted to stand in the way of the efficient prosecution of the various measures planned for the alleviation of the unhappy plight of these people.

A number of positive recommendations will be presented by the Bermuda Conference through the two Governments here represented to the Executive Committee of the Intergovernmental Committee. These proposals envisage the necessity for negotiations with neutral and Allied Governments. These negotiations will include, among other things, approaches in regard to the chartering of neutral shipping, the procurement of places of refuge and in some cases the intercession with neutral governments for the furtherance of humanitarian proposals. This last function would not involve negotiations, direct or indirect, with an enemy government. The area of primary interest to the work of the Intergovernmental Committee should be confined to those countries and peoples from which the refugees come as a result of the war in Europe or to which they may be sent. It would be necessary for the Intergovernmental Committee to dispose of funds both public and private. Otherwise the activities and the possibilities for positive and beneficial action would be limited.

The Intergovernmental Committee is now acting under a very narrow mandate. The limitations imposed upon the work of the Intergovernmental Committee by this mandate are evident; its activities are now restricted to refugees from Germany, Austria and the Sudetenland. It acts under the stipulation that the maintenance and transport of refugees is not to be at the cost of member Governments. In addition, the Intergovernmental Committee as it now exists is free to negotiate with the German Government on refugees matters. The Committee suffers from a further disability in that its membership does not include some of the United Nations and neutrals whose assistance is of particular value. The physical organization of the Committee is not conducive to efficient operation. The Executive Committee is composed of a chairman and four vice chairmen, who sit as representatives of their governments and act in an honorary and advisory capacity. There is an unpaid director and a secretary.

It is obvious that all these conditions must be altered. It is of the utmost importance that the scope of the activities of the Intergovernmental Committee be broadened so as to permit its efficient and energetic operation. The following measures are proposed by the delegates to the Refugees Conference at Bermuda.

The mandate of the Committee should be revised. In order to effect this purpose it is suggested that the mandate should read as follows:

‘The Executive Committee of the Intergovernmental Committee is hereby empowered by the member states to undertake negotiations with neutral or Allied states or organizations and to take such steps as may be necessary to preserve, maintain and transport those persons displaced from their homes by their efforts to escape from areas where their lives and liberty are in danger on account of their race, religion or their political beliefs. The operation of the Committee shall extend to all countries from which such persons may have been displaced [Page 163] by the European war or to which they may be sent in an effort to secure for them a place of refuge. The Executive Committee shall be empowered to receive and disburse for the purposes enumerated above funds, both public and private.’

It is further recommended by the delegates to the Conference at Bermuda that the membership of the Intergovernmental Committee be broadened. Specifically, invitations might be extended to the U. S. S. R., Poland, Greece and Yugoslavia, and possibly, to Spain and Portugal. It must be assumed that France’s place on the Executive Committee must now be considered vacant. However, the interests of the citizens of France will be protected by the Committee with the utmost care and the hope that France may soon be able to take her place on the Committee will be constantly borne in mind.

It is recommended that provisions be made for the procurement of funds adequate for the work of the Committee. The Committee should make every effort to secure funds from private sources. In addition, the member states should be urged to make material contributions toward the work of the Committee. The delegates to the Bermuda Conference believe that it would be preferable to revive the theory of pro rata contributions on the Geneva basis. However, they would be prepared to accept as satisfactory a suggestion that these contributions be placed upon a voluntary basis. Considerable increases in the staff of the Executive Committee will be essential to the proper conduct of the important duties which the Committee must assume. The delegates believe that these additions to personnel may be made by the Executive Committee without special authorization from the member states and that they can be effected from time to time as the occasion demands. However, a specific recommendation is made for the creation within the Executive Committee of a management committee composed of a paid chairman, the director, and the secretary.

2. The pressure of events will not permit long delay in the completion of the measures proposed above. If the labors of the Conference on Refugees in Bermuda are not to be in vain, it is essential that early and decisive action be taken upon the proposals which are to be made. The delegates to the Conference at Bermuda therefore propose that their Governments should instruct the American and British representatives of the Intergovernmental Committee to call an immediate meeting or, if possible, to agree among themselves by telegraph regarding the suggestion made for widening the scope of the Committee.”