UK policy on the management of refugees, internees and other suspects in time of war or emergency

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UK policy on the management of refugees, internees and other suspects in time of war or emergency

This release includes a number of files covering subjects broadly related to the wartime handling of internees and suspect aliens.

Internment of aliens policy (KV 4/361-368)

Government planning for the internment of aliens in an emergency began at the end of the First World War, and KV 4/361 (1918-1931) shows Security Service involvement in this planning, including Committee of Imperial Defence sub-committee papers, and various lists of 'dangerous' aliens. This work continued at an increasing pace as the Second World War approached, as recorded in KV 4/362 (1931-1936) and KV 4/363 (1936-1938), with internment camps being named in the latter file. KV 4/364 (January-May 1939) includes, at serial 190a, estimates of numbers to be interned by location.

The camps were opened and the plans enacted in September 1939 (minute 242 on KV 4/365, May-October 1939). By 1940, interned alien Nazi sympathisers had begun to be released, and there are lists of released Nazis at serial 329a in KV 4/366. Papers on the development of these policies to 1943 are continued in KV 4/367 (1940) and KV 4/368 (1940-1943).

These eight files are reconstituted.

Release of interned aliens policy (KV 4/370-373)

These four files deal with the development of policy on the release of interned aliens during the Second World War, and document the gradual loosening of the criteria for release over time.

KV 4/370 (1939-1940) includes discussion of the difficulty of keeping ex-internees out of proscribed areas once they had been released, and there is extensive discussion on the issue between the Security Service and the Home Office. The file also covers the process of hearing appeals against internment, and includes a table of the cases heard by the two appeal judges.

KV 4/371-373 develop the subject from 1940-1945 and record the progressive development of the policy. KV 4/371 includes a printed memo prepared by the commandant of one of the Isle of Man internment camps discussing Suggestions re Employment of Internees (September 1940).

Policy on control of French, Belgian and Dutch refugees, 1939-1940 (KV 4/374-375)

KV 4/374 (1939-May 1940) documents the plans laid for dealing with the expected flood of refugees from the near continent in the event of a successful German invasion there, and shows Security Service input to the planning of reception camps, screening processes and the measures to be taken to intercept Nazi sympathisers or 5th columnists. The plans anticipated at least 2,000 refugees being landed daily in ports in the Clyde, Bristol Channel and Belfast Lough areas. Serial 4a compares the plans with actual events during the First World War. The file closes in May 1940 as the refugee situation started to develop. There is a sample refugee registration card at serial 65.

KV 4/375 (May-June 1940) covers the brief period when large numbers of refugees arrived, and shows the extent to which the plans were overtaken. The case of the SS Dotterell, which arrived unannounced at Harwich on 14 May bearing 421 refugees, but no food or water, is a typical example, detailed at serial 79x, and shows how the screening plans could not be implemented. One personal case, that of Charlotte Elias, a 25-year-old Dutch relative of a Security Service officer, is described at serial 85b. There is a list of London area refugee reception centres, with their capacities, at serial 84a.

Coastal watching policy (KV 4/376-379)

These four reconstituted files record the development of coast watching policy during the Second World War, when the Security Service was interested from the point of view of detecting enemy agents being landed by small boat or from submarines, and the sudden resurrection of this subject in 1952. The business of organising a Coastal Watching Organisation during the war involved the Home Guard, the Coast Guard, the regular forces (including at times Allied troops) and the Admiralty, as well as the Security Service through its regional officers.

The initial development of the policy is recorded in KV 4/376 (1939-1941), which includes guidelines issued to regional officers (serial 8a, for example). The Service does not appear to have been involved in pre-war planning. The Director-General (David Petrie) minuted on the subject in August 1941 (KV 4/377, 1941-1942), and already by this time it seems that the Service was playing down the danger of agents landing by sea. Petrie wrote: "We must keep this matter in the right perspective: and…I have had the feeling for some time back that we have been suspecting rather too much."  Report on the organisation of the coastal watch is at serial 56a. There are many cases of bad practice reported and discussed in the file, such as that of the German rubber boat found at Selsey, West Sussex on 9 April 1941, but not reported to the police or to the military for two weeks (serial 60a).

Further developments in the policy and further cases are reported in KV 4/378 (1942-1943) and KV 4/379 (1943-1952), tailing off after the success of the D-Day landings with the penultimate volume of the file closing well before the end of the War.

The policy was revived, however, in 1952, and a new volume of this file was opened (the second half of KV 4/379) to hold papers on the review of coast-watching plans and policy for a "War Watching Organisation" against fears of Eastern block agents being infiltrated covertly into the UK.

Policy on detainees' appeals and the release of British fascists (KV 4/380-382)

These three weeded files detail policy discussions on the appeals by British fascists against detention under Defence Regulation 18B. They include correspondence with the Appeals Committees, with the Home Office and with the Home Defence (Security) Executive (HD(S)E), which generally convey the Security Service's extreme dissatisfaction with the process and the ease with which detainees were able to secure their release essentially on technicalities.

KV 4/380 (1939-1940) discusses at length the accusation that the Service had deviated from the principle under which the detentions had been made in its objections to the appeals. There is a detailed minute on the legal aspects of these cases at serial 1xz, and a table of cases showing delays in process at serial 23a. Lord Swinton, chair of the HD(S)E, complains at serial 28a that "I have been put in a false position" by the Security Service. The essential problem had arisen from British Union of Fascists (BUF) officers being detained as a class of people (that is, as officers regardless of their own personal case) but lodging appeals as individuals. The Service argued for the fact of their office in the BUF to be taken into account during appeals, but this was being resisted.

Discussions of these issues continue over KV 4/381 (1940-1942) and into KV 4/382 (1942-1945), where a Service minute (189) records: "It is disturbing that the Home Office appear to pay practically no attention to our views or to those of the Intelligence Officers in Camp M…This whole question of releases seems to be getting out of hand." There is a detailed memo on the cases of BUF detainees from January 1943 at serial 188z.

Control of enemy aliens and the Enemy Aliens' Tribunal (KV 4/385-392)

Security Service involvement in the development of plans and policies to control enemy aliens in Britain during the Second World War is detailed in KV 4/385-389. Developments in the run-up to war are documented in the first two files, covering 1938-1939, which cover the drafting of regulations, gathering comments from local constabularies, and in particular (serial 32b, KV 4/386) plans for dealing with the 175 women who were due to be arrested at the outbreak of war but who would "not normally be interned". Minuting here indicates the Home Office preference for immediate repatriation.

KV 4/387 notes the Security Service's disapproval of the Home Office decision to establish Enemy Aliens Tribunals on the outbreak of war to review all enemy alien cases, and this file (1939-1940) deals with policy on exchanges of interned aliens (particularly women) between Britain and Germany in 1939. Estimates as to the number of Britons interned in Germany are included. There is discussion on the status of internees from German occupied territories. Serial 61ax is a list of German alien women of September 1939 with recommendations for deportation, internment or police surveillance, giving the ages and occupations of the women.

KV 4/388 (1940) considers (serial 88x) policy on German Jews in the UK in January 1940: (there was "no special attitude adopted towards Jews as such…"). A minute of July 1940 at serial 141a shows how the Home Office referred to the Security Service for advice on a query from a Mrs Eirene Piers, who employed a German cook, as to what action she should take in the event of, say, a parachutist alarm. The Service's reply was that "If persons in these times…employ enemies as servants there is no doubt that they incur responsibility for their proper conduct. If there is doubt [the employee] should be incontinently sacked…If there is no doubt…he might well communicate with the local policeman." Final policy developments to 1942 are recorded in KV 4/389.

Security Service files relating to the Home Office Enemy Aliens Tribunals are contained in KV 4/390-392. Numbered in reverse order, the first of these covering 1939-1940 is KV 4/392, which gives more details on the Service's concerns about the Tribunals. The worst of these seems to have been relating to the Isle of Wight Tribunal, which considered 76 cases but only ordered the internment of one German alien. This is described (serials 28a-29a) as being "criminal folly." The following two files continue to record the Service's view of these Tribunals up to the end of their work in 1940.

Policy on management of Camp 020 (KV 2/2593; KV 4/369)

KV 2/2593 consists of a chronological list of people passing through Camp 020 and Camp 020R, compiled in 1943 and then kept up-to-date to the end of the war. It gives the name of the detainee, arrival date, date transferred out and where to, release date or, where appropriate, a note that the subject was executed, an indication of whether held at Camp 020 or 020R, and whether the subject committed suicide. The list is also annotated with subsequent information as to when the subject was decarded, the Security Service PF (Personal File) file reference and notes concerning the destruction of those files when appropriate.

Several of the inmates of Camp 020 attempted appeals against their detention, and the policy file on handling these is now released at KV 4/369 (1941-1945). The files cover the involvement of the Official Solicitor in hearing these appeals, and much of the correspondence concerns the question of where to send people withdrawn from Camp 020 but not at liberty (the London Reception Centre and Dartmoor Prison being the main possibilities). The file includes copies of some petitions, and much of the correspondence relates to a particular case, that of Juan Lecube (whose Security Service PF (personal file) has already been released).