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In law, an enemy alien is a citizen of a country which is in a state of conflict with the land in which he or she is located. Usually, but not always, the countries are in a state of declared war.


United Kingdom

At the outbreak of World War II, in 1939, the United Kingdom had become a place of refuge for people who had fled Nazi persecution, including Jews and political refugees. At first, the authorities interned these refugees with other enemy residents, without distinction. Later on, when Italy also declared war, significant numbers of Italian residents were also interned.

The Isle of Man, relatively isolated from the British mainland and with a useful amount of holiday accommodation was used to provide housing for the "Alien Civilians" (as it had in World War I). There were also efforts to move internees from Britain. In July, 1940, the Arandora Star was torpedoed and sunk while transporting Italian and German aliens to North America; 743 died, including prisoners, crew and guards. The 813 surviving prisoners were subsequently included in the 2,500 men transported by HMT Dunera for internment in Hay, New South Wales.

United States

A well-known example of enemy aliens were the Japanese citizens residing in the United States during World War II. Many of these Japanese and Japanese-Americans were imprisoned in internment camps by President Roosevelt during wartime, alongside many Italian-Americans. It is important, however, to recognize that the Japanese-Americans and Italian-Americans were not actually "aliens", as they held American citizenship, only the non-American citizens can be correctly termed "enemy aliens" and be interned. However, German American, Italian American and Japanese American permanent resident aliens were interned in the United States during WWII. In total 10,905 Italian Americans and approximately 110,000 Japanese Americans were interned in many different camps and sites across the country. German Americans were held in more than 50 different locations.

German American internment sites during World War II.jpg

Citizens of an enemy country who lived in the USA during World War II, were required to have a "Enemy Alien" card and register monthly with the authorities. Similar regulations existed in Canada and Mexico.[citation needed]


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