840.48 Refugees/5279: Telegram

The Secretary of State to the Ambassador in Spain (Hayes)

799. The comments and suggestions with respect to War Refugee Board contained in your 683 of February 28 are appreciated. The War Refugee Board desires to point out that Camp Lyautey will not be the only haven to which refugees can be removed from Spain. Negotiations by the Board are in progress for other havens and you should assume and may advise the Spanish Government that all refugees from occupied areas entering Spain will be removed from Spain. It was gratifying to the Board to learn that the Spanish Government is not placing obstacles in the way of stateless and other refugees desiring to enter Spain from France with or without proper papers and the Board is hopeful that that Government will follow a generous policy in this regard in the future.

That the number of stateless refugees entering Spain from occupied areas is extremely small at present is known to the Board but the Board wishes to inform you that it is currently taking vigorous steps [Page 1014] vis-à-vis Germany and satellite countries which it is confidently expected will stimulate the flow of refugees from occupied areas into Spain and other neutral countries. To this end the Board will continue to take all possible action. The flow of refugees into Spain in any event is certain to increase in the coming months when the snow melts in the Pyrenees.

It is the belief of the Board that as a result of the pressure now being brought to bear on the Axis, Spain is most likely to receive substantial numbers of refugees this coming spring. The Board is most desirous that the Spanish Government be relieved of as many of the problems connected with this influx as possible, including finance, supply and supervision of the refugees. The Board accordingly submits the following plan of proposed operations in Spain for your consideration, advice and comment and such action as is indicated.

[Here follow details on the setting up and maintenance of refugee camps.]

Will you kindly report any objections which you think the Spanish Government might raise to the establishment of these centers53 in the foregoing manner or to their financing by the Board. Private sources in the United States will probably provide the funds for their operation. As you will note this plan reduces the responsibility of the Spanish Government to a minimum. The Board will appreciate your comment on whether the staffs of the centers should be known to the Spanish Government as official employees of this Government or as representatives of American private welfare agencies. Incidentally, the American Red Cross is reluctant at this time to participate in the operations of the centers.

In Section 1, your 683, February 28 you requested clarification of the meaning of “involuntary removal” of refugees. It is anticipated that many of the refugees will desire to proceed to other areas than North Africa once they have escaped from occupied areas. It is the feeling of the Board however that it is undesirable that these refugees remain in Spain. They should proceed to North Africa where they may make arrangements for travel elsewhere with greater security for themselves and without the embarrassment to the Spanish Government which might be caused if they remained in Spain. The proposal is that frontier officials and police authorities direct the refugees to the centers, providing them with permits to travel only from the point of apprehension to the nearest center. It is hoped that the Spanish officials will advise the refugees that their presence in Spain will be tolerated only so long as they conduct themselves in accordance with this program. After arrival at the centers [Page 1015] those in charge would explain to the refugees that the Spanish authorities have released them into the care of the centers. Thereupon every effort would be made to convince the refugees that the travel of other refugees through Spain is dependent on the rapid departure from Spain of those who have already entered. It might be explained further that the refugees, after leaving Spain, would be under the care of the officials of UNRRA rather than directly under the control of the French. Such a policy, it is believed, if skillfully executed by the representatives of the Board will assure the quick and voluntary departure for North Africa of all refugees who may succeed in crossing the Spanish border.

It is the hope of the Board that you will give this proposal your prompt personal attention and consideration and that you will cable as soon as possible your comments and suggestions.56

This cable has been approved by the War and State Departments.

  1. Figueras, Tolosa, and Murillo.
  2. The Ambassador replied in telegram 1195, April 6, that the facilities then available were adequate and had support of the Spanish Government, and that the Government would look with disfavor upon the plan outlined by the Board (840.48 Refugees/5551).