840.48 Refugees/4014: Telegram

The Minister in Portugal (Fish) to the Secretary of State

1557. The Portuguese Government has suddenly and without giving sufficient reason for its action refused to grant further visas to French refugees wishing to proceed from the Spanish border to transit Portugal and embark at Setubal.

On July 9 at the request of our Embassy at Madrid the Legation addressed the usual note to the Foreign Office here requesting visas for 1,500 French refugees for whom arrangements had been made to arrive at the Portuguese Spanish frontier the night of July 15.

On the afternoon of July 12 Crocker93 was called to the Foreign Office and informed that visas for only 484 could be granted. Upon inquiring as to the reason for this figure he was informed that as the Foreign Office records showed that to date 2,516 French refugees had already passed through Portugal and that the Legation’s original note of March 24 last mentioned the number 3,000, the Portuguese Government would be able to grant visas for only the difference. At the time of the original exchange of notes on the subject no mention was made of any limitation as to numbers. The number 3,000 referred to was merely a statement of the number of French refugees which it was hoped to send through in the first groups for whom four ships were allocated. This number was later reduced to 758 by reason of the inability of the railroads to handle such a large number and for other reasons.

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Copies of the Legation’s note of March 24 and of the Portuguese Government’s reply thereto of April 8 were transmitted with our despatch 913 of April 9.94

Having been unable to move the Portuguese Government from its position, the Legation referred the matter to Madrid which approached the Portuguese Ambassador there and apparently as a result of his intervention with Dr. Salazar95 the Foreign Office called the Legation at 11:30 last night and stated that 760 visas would be granted which would permit those refugees who had already entrained at Barcelona to proceed as scheduled, but it was explained that no further visas would be granted unless a new agreement were reached.

In view of Dr. Salazar’s long established principle on humanitarian grounds of permitting passage through Portugal of refugees of all sorts and conditions, the Legation is at a loss to explain the reason for this volte-face on the part of Portuguese Government. The following considerations are however advanced:

Possible German pressure.
The desire of Dr. Salazar, in view of recent military developments in the Mediterranean, to bring pressure to bear upon the Spaniards in the hope that they may be forced to agree to ship French refugees directly to North Africa instead of through Portugal.
The remote possibility of sabotaging action by the Foreign Office here which is resentful of the Portuguese Ambassador at Madrid’s practice of dealing directly by telephone with Dr. Salazar.

Repeated to Madrid.

  1. Edward S. Crocker, American Consul at Lisbon.
  2. Not printed.
  3. Antonio de Oliveira Salazar, Portuguese Prime Minister.