840.48 Refugees/4068: Airgram

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

A–1699. Reference previous correspondence in connection with settlement of Polish refugees in Mexico. The British Minister in Mexico just telephoned me to inquire if he could not come in to see me together with our Polish colleague to discuss with me the bringing to Mexico of a further group of 4,000 Polish refugees within the next 2 months. He said that he had been instructed by the Foreign Office to take this matter up with the Mexican authorities.

I told the British Minister that while I would of course be glad to see him, I had no instructions from my Government as to any other groups of Polish refugees coming here and therefore any discussion which we might have would be fruitless, in as much as I was not prepared to join in any approach to the Mexican Foreign Office without direct instructions from the Department. The British Minister said that in view of this he would present the matter again to his Government.

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I have just received a memorandum from Mr. Eric P. Kelly, in charge of the refugee camp at León, wherein he states: “I have had to get sharp about the demand on the part of employed refugees for pay and realize that the whole thing stems back to India where they were promised heaven knows what before they sailed. It must be understood with all new groups that no money is to be earned here. When one spends some $50,000 to $75,000 fixing up Santa Rosa, furnishing homes and feeding the people, setting up schools and trying to give modest compensation, one does not relish sour reception of the possibilities.”

When Mr. Kelly speaks of “employed refugees,” he means those refugees who have been put to work on the project and who are being paid a nominal wage. It is of course out of the question to think of placing these people in employment in competition with Mexican nationals. However, I understand that some of the refugees now in León had been engaged in small businesses in India and only gave these up on the assurance that they would be permitted to engage in gainful employment in Mexico. I cannot too strongly emphasize that it must be understood by all refugees coming to Mexico that they do so under the terms of the agreement between Foreign Minister Padilla and the late General Sikorski,98 which automatically prevents their being employed privately in Mexico or entering into business here.

The experience gained in the construction of Santa Rosa indicates that we must go slowly and not endeavor to bring in any large groups of refugees within as short a space of time as that of the last group. Santa Rosa, after 2 months of intensive work and effort, is only now ready for the refugees to be lodged there. It would take at least from 4 to 6 months’ advance preparation to make ready further centers for the large group of refugees to which the British Minister referred. If it is absolutely indispensable that these refugees be brought here, then I must insist on at least 4 to 6 months’ advance notice.

I should appreciate the Department’s observations with regard to the above.

  1. Exchange of notes regarding the admission of Polish refugees to Mexico, December 30, 1942, transmitted to the Department by its Ambassador in Mexico in his despatch No. 6270, dated December 31, 1942, not printed (840.48 Refugees/3508). Gen. Wladyslaw Sikorski, Prime Minister of the Polish Government in Exile at London, was killed in an airplane accident near Gibraltar, July 4, 1943.