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Calling on the Colonies

With internment underway and fear of a German invasion growing, Prime Minister Churchill informed his War Cabinet on May 24, 1940 that he was “strongly in favour of removing all internees out of the UK.” Canada and Australia, both former British colonies, were approached to take thousands of “enemy aliens”.

After some negotiation, Canada agreed to take 7,000 “dangerous type” civilians and prisoners of war. Following Canada’s lead, Australia also decided to accept internees. An interdepartmental conference was held on June 17th at the Dominions Office to outline the deportation policy. It was proposed that British security would select 2,600 German and Austrian “Category A” men, 1,900 prisoners of war and 1,500 fascist Italians for deportation. All were described as “dangerous and requiring stringent confinement.” Britain would retain authority over their custody.

Less than a week later, the first ship sailed for Canada loaded with “A” internees and prisoners of war. Three more ships followed to Canada and another left for Australia. Aboard, however, were large numbers of refugees. The speed of the deportations and the lack of captured Axis soldiers meant that the British used men in the “B” and “C” categories to fill the quota. Canada received approximately 2,300 “B” and “C” interned refugees.

W.L. Mackenzie King shaking hands with Winston Churchill. Dossier

W.L. Mackenzie King shaking hands with Winston Churchill as the British Prime Minister welcomes him to London.

From Refugees to Internees
in the classroom


From Refugees to Internees
Students learn about Britain’s classification of refugees from Nazism as “enemy aliens” by engaging with documentary sources, and with internee video testimony about their arrest and internment in England.


Fragile Roots
“Enemy Aliens”


“Do’s and Don’ts for Refugees”
“Refugee from Nazi Oppression Certificate” (160Kb PDF)
“Application for Consideration by Joint Recruiting Board” (225Kb PDF)


“Collar the Lot”

Complete Teachers’ Guide to Enemy Aliens
PDF 7.8 MB

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