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“I want to be a refugee from Britain”: inside the forgotten history of England’s refugee camps

Today, aside from an odd plaque, there is little public memory of Britain's refugee camps. But their complex, multi-cultural history has much to teach us

By Jordanna Bailkin  

Today, very few people think of Britain as a land of camps. Instead, camps seem to happen elsewhere—from Greece to Palestine, or across the global south.

Yet during the 20th century, there were dozens of camps in Britain, which housed tens of thousands of Belgians, Jews, Basques, Poles, Hungarians, Anglo-Egyptians, Ugandan Asians, and Vietnamese.

The camps jumbled together those who fled the crises of war and empire: Hungarians and Anglo-Egyptians competed for spaces when they disembarked in 1956, victims of, respectively, the Soviet…

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