840.48 Refugees/4016: Telegram

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

1565. Following is a translation of a note received last night from the Foreign Office:

“Number 55. The Ministry for Foreign Affairs presents its compliments to the American Legation and with reference to the latter’s note verbale of the 9th instant has the honor to state the following:

When in March last the British and American Government addressed themselves to the Portuguese Government requesting facilities for passage through Portugal of refugees who were in Spain, the Portuguese Government hastened to give assent to the request, but of course within the terms in which the request was made, that is, up to the maximum limit of about 3000, which had been expressly fixed, in [Page 327] the American note verbale of March 24. No other interpretation could be given to the acquiescence given in the note verbale of the Ministry for Foreign Affairs of April 8 addressed to the American Legation, for in granting a request the authorization solicited is given and not an unlimited and permanent authorization which would exceed what was requested.

We have always worked on that basis. Therefore on examining the request recently made for the transit of refugees, the official of the Ministry of Foreign Affairs entrusted with that service observed that the numbers exceeded the balance remaining to be filled to reach the figure of 3000 originally indicated and, therefore he could not order the visas to be granted without the Government’s authorization.

According to the information received from Madrid, the number of refugees for whom a train has already been prepared in Spain (Barcelona) is still higher than that on which Lisbon figured since it [amounts to 780 in excess of the 3000]95a which had originally been fixed.

The Portuguese Government does not want to fail to give proof of its goodwill and to avoid upsetting arrangements of material nature already made even though made without previously consulting it and therefore it once more condescends to authorize the coming of the 780 refugees who in Barcelona are awaiting the order or signal to leave, it must however, be understood that any future authorization for the transit of refugees can only be granted after the question in its general aspects shall have been the subject of a new examination and general discussion between the Portuguese Government and the organization believed competent to deal with it.

It would be impossible and very inconvenient if when requests such as the one set forth in the American note of the 9th instant are being made of the Portuguese Government and even before an answer has been received from the Ministry of Foreign Affairs of Portugal, the organization entrusted in Spain with the material execution of the plan should continue to carry out arrangements as though assent has already been given thus placing the Portuguese Government in the alternative of either creating harmful difficulties if it refuses what is asked or else to grant it under pressure of a consideration which is not indifferent to its spirit of goodwill.

Lisbon, July 15, 1943.”

  1. Correction made on basis of information given by Foreign Ministry to Embassy in Lisbon as quoted in despatch No. 483, May 23, 1960 (023.1/5–2360).