FO 371 - Foreign Office: Political Departments: General Correspondence from 1906-1966. Political: General: Refugees. Advisory Council on Aliens.
This subseries contains the minutes, memoranda, and supporting documentation of the Advisory Council on Aliens, a body that was established in June 1940 and attached to the Refugee Department of the Foreign Office.
In May 1940, amidst a growing threat of invasion and increasing public antipathy towards foreign nationals living in Britain – many of whom had arrived as refugees from Fascist Europe in the 1930s but were now viewed as a potential "Fifth Column" of saboteurs and informants – the government began a programme of mass internment of so-called "enemy aliens", and placed stringent restrictions on the personal freedoms of many other nationalities. Shortly after, in the wake of high-profile humanitarian tragedies such as the sinking of the S.S. Arandora Star, killing hundreds of German and Italian internees aboard, it was announced that an Advisory Council was to be appointed by the Secretary of State for Foreign Affairs, "the functions of which are to keep under general review all arrangements for which the Government are in any way responsible affecting the welfare of aliens in this country."
The principal functions of the Advisory Council on Aliens, as outlined by the War Cabinet, were as follows:
- "to suggest measures for maintaining the morale of aliens in this country so as to bind them more closely to our common cause;
- to review and if necessary to suggest measures for the co-ordination, to the end described in a) above, of the work of various refugee committees and other voluntary organisations concerned with aliens in this country;
- to maintain contact with the various government Departments having responsibilities in connection with refugees and other classes of aliens and with foreign governments or National Committees established in this country;
- to advise the Home Office in the arrangements made for the welfare of enemy aliens in internment camps;
- to study, and make recommendations upon, the problem of finding occupations for enemy aliens in internment camps." (FO 371/25248, p. 136)
The files in this subseries provide a detailed insight into the initial restrictions and internment policies enacted at the onset of the war, the formation and constitution of the Aliens Advisory Council, its subsequent work throughout the war, and the experiences of countless foreign nationals living in the U.K. during the conflict.