840.48 Refugees/3906a: Telegram

The Secretary of State to the Ambassador in Mexico (Messersmith)

970. In January the Mexican Embassy informed the Department that the Mexican Government wished to assist the Spanish Republican internees in North Africa and would be pleased to receive in Mexico those who wished to emigrate there and to pay the costs of their transportation. Acting upon this advice the Department took the matter up with the American military authorities in North Africa and with the French. Both were eager to facilitate the movement as removing a possible source of unrest behind the Allied lines and the War Department agreed for this reason to transport the refugees free of charge to a US port from which they would proceed to Mexico. The refugees were canvassed and approximately 2,000, of whom more than one-half are believed to be women and children, expressed a desire to come to Mexico.

In April, however, the Mexican Government began to raise difficulties, suggesting first that it should send a representative to North Africa to screen the proposed immigrants and then intimating that it did not have sufficient funds to finance the movement, even though this Government’s offer to provide ocean transportation gratis left only the cost of rail transport from the US port to the Mexican border to be covered. Incidentally, the Joint Anti-Fascist Refugee Committee, a private group in this country, has offered to pay some and possibly all of these rail transport costs. The Mexican Embassy in Washington at the Department’s request has repeatedly asked the Mexican Government to decide finally whether or not it will accept these refugees but no decision has yet been received here.

Meanwhile our representatives in Algiers report that the internment camps in which these and other refugees in North Africa were detained [Page 313] have been closed and that the Spaniards who wish to proceed to Mexico, being unwilling for this reason to accept work contracts, are without funds, without work and living in crowded quarters. The War Department urges strongly that the matter be decided without further delay.

You are requested to take this matter up with the appropriate Mexican authorities and to urge that a definite decision be reached at once so that the refugees may either be shipped forthwith to Mexico or, if this is not to be authorized, may be informed that they will have to accept other arrangements for their disposition.