840.48 Refugees/5448a: Telegram

The Secretary of State to the Ambassador in the United Kingdom (Winant)

2292. Refer to Department’s 371, January 14, 1944.62 Finding of havens where refugees may remain for the duration of the war is one of the most pressing and immediate problems before the War Refugee Board. Tripolitania and Cyrenaica in the opinion of the Department and the Board might be suitable for this purpose.

Tripolitania and Cyrenaica have been under consideration as havens ever since the Bermuda Conference at which it was specifically recommended that the British consider the admission of refugees to Cyrenaica. Thereafter when agreement was reached to consider a refugee camp in French North Africa, in a message to Prime Minister Churchill the President commented on his interest in the possibility of using Tripolitania and Cyrenaica as refugee havens.62a As recently as January of this year, the suggestion was again informally made to the British in the manner described in the aforementioned cable. Although many months have passed no decision has apparently yet been taken in this important matter. You are requested to reopen the matter immediately and to raise with the British Government the question of the use of Tripolitania and Cyrenaica as refugee havens subject of course to the later approval of the Combined Chiefs of Staff. Before any approach is made to the Combined Chiefs of Staff the consent of the British should be secured. The British Government should be advised that this Government is prepared to share responsibility for financing the establishment and maintenance of camps in Tripolitania and Cyrenaica, including the cost of transportation of refugees to these camps. If it later seems desirable we are confident that part of this cost may be borne by private refugee agencies. The problem of transportation can be worked out cooperatively between the British Government and ourselves.

A division of obligations and responsibilities between the two Governments, similar to the case of the transfer of refugees from Spain to North Africa, can be worked out with respect to Tripolitania and Cyrenaica.

The establishing of refugee havens in Cyrenaica and Tripolitania is extremely important. The War Refugee Board is convinced that [Page 1019] a real opportunity exists for bringing many refugees out of occupied areas, especially from areas contiguous to the Black Sea and Turkey. As you have previously been advised the Board is determined to do everything it can to rescue refugees in as large numbers as possible. It is important once these refugees are evacuated to Turkey that areas to which they can be removed expeditiously be found. Camps in Cyrenaica and Tripolitania could be used for this purpose. Such camps would facilitate also the escape of refugees from other areas. Refugees from Southern Italy, for instance, could be removed from camps there to Tripolitania and Cyrenaica, thus making room for other refugees who succeed in escaping from occupied areas in Italy.

Kindly give this matter your urgent and personal attention and advise the Department as soon as possible of the progress of your conversations.

  1. Not printed.
  2. For text of President Roosevelt’s message sent on or before July 9, 1943, see Foreign Relations, 1943, vol. i, p. 323.