Franklin D. Roosevelt

Cablegram to Ambassador Robert Murphy in Algiers on Bringing Refugees to the United States.

June 09, 1944

INFORMATION available to me indicates that there are real possibilities of saving human lives by bringing more refugees through Yugoslavia to southern Italy. I am also informed that the escape of refugees by this route has from time to time been greatly impeded because the facilities in southern Italy for refugees have been overtaxed. I am advised that this is the situation at the present moment and that accordingly possibilities of increasing the flow of refugees to Italy may be lost.

I understand that many of the refugees in southern Italy have been and are being moved to temporary havens in areas adjacent to the Mediterranean and that efforts are being made to increase existing refugee facilities in these areas. I am most anxious that this effort to take refugees from Italy to areas relatively close by be intensified.

At the same time I feel that it is important that the United States indicate that it is ready to share the burden of caring for refugees during the war. Accordingly, I have decided that approximately 1,000 refugees should be immediately brought from Italy to this country, to be placed in an Emergency Refugee Shelter to be established at Fort Ontario near Oswego, New York, where under appropriate security restrictions they will remain for the duration of the war. These refugees will be brought into this country outside of the regular immigration procedure just as civilian internees from Latin American countries and prisoners of war have been brought here. The Emergency Refugee Shelter will be well equipped to take good care of these people. It is contemplated that at the end of the war they will be returned to their homelands.

You may assume that the Emergency Refugee Shelter will be ready to receive these refugees when they arrive. I will appreciate it therefore if you will arrange for the departure to the United States as rapidly as possible, consistent with military requirements, of approximately 1,000 refugees in southern Italy. You may call upon representatives of the War Refugee Board in Algiers to assist you in this matter. The full cooperation of our military and naval authorities should be enlisted in effecting the prompt removal and transportation of the refugees.

In choosing the refugees to be brought to the United States, please bear in mind that to the extent possible those refugees should be selected for whom other havens of refuge are not immediately available. I should, however, like the group to include a reasonable proportion of various categories of persecuted peoples who have fled to Italy.

You should bear in mind that since these refugees are to be placed in a camp in the United States under appropriate security restrictions, the procedure for the selection of the refugees and arrangements for bringing them here should be as simple and expeditious as possible, uncomplicated by any of the usual formalities involved in admitting people to the United States under the immigration laws.

However, please be sure that the necessary health checks are made to avoid bringing here persons afflicted with any loathsome, dangerous, or contagious disease.

If you encounter any difficulties in arranging for the prompt departure of these refugees please let me know.

Franklin D. Roosevelt, Cablegram to Ambassador Robert Murphy in Algiers on Bringing Refugees to the United States. Online by Gerhard Peters and John T. Woolley, The American Presidency Project

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