British Internment Policy Attacked in Commons; Refugee Families to Go to Australia

Commons tonight debated the Government’s policy of interning aliens, members of all parties joining in criticism of the policy and also the treatment of the internees in the camps.

Captain Osbert Peake, Home Office Undersecretary, replying, declared that the radical change in the military situation after the invasion of Holland and Belgium necessitated the change of policy regarding aliens, although he admitted that there had not been a serious case in which an act of hostility against the State could be attributed to an alien.

Peake asserted that in the event of air raids refugees were safer interned because of public feeling.

The Government spokesman said the policy of transporting internees overseas had been decided upon by a Cabinet committee presided over by Neville Chamberlain.Only 6,700 of the most dangerous were sent to Canada, he said.

Australia has agreed to accept interned women and children, as well as men, thus making possible the reuniting of families for transfer there, Peake said. Both Governments have given assurance that they will treat the people with all humanity, he said.

Peake announced that the Labor Ministry was working on plans to provide suitable work for the internees. He denied mistreatment in the camps and declared that the Home Office was trying to pursue a fair policy, tempering the paramount consideration of security with the common dictates of humanity. He promised to release anyone wrongfully interned.

The debate was opened by Major Victor Cazalet, Conservative, who warned the Home Secretary was being stampeded against his better judgment. He charged grave injustices in the internment camps, where Nazis and Jews were mixed. He asked release of some of the internees and better treatment of the remainder.

Miss Eleanor Rathbone, Independent, described the panic among the refugees and their fears that they would be pushed off overseas. Viscount Wolmer, Conservative, declared individual cases had shocked the public, demanded an investigation and a separate organization to deal with the whole problem.

Col. Josiah Wedgwood, Laborite, denounced the practice of interning refugees, “convinced friends of freedom,” while leaving free Fascists and other enemies. H.G. Strauss, Conservative, declared that while the safety of the State must be the first consideration, humanity should be exercised and no avoidable hardship imposed.

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