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Aliens

Reference DS.WS/22 and DS.WS/23

In law, the term Aliens refers to a person who is not a native or naturalized citizen in the land in which they are found. From 1523 until the mid 1800s, there was very little legislation related to Citizenship, but ever-increasing restrictions have affected the lives of immigrants who have entered the UK over the last 100 years.

The 1905 Aliens Act

In 1902, the Royal Commission of Alien Immigration was established In the UK, and published their first report in 1905 the Aliens Act. This Act replaced the 1836 Act and set up a new system of immigration control and registration and giving responsibility to the Home Secretary for all matters of immigration and nationality.

It marked the end of unrestricted access for individuals and families migrating into Britain. The legislation gave Government Inspectors the power to exclude paupers unless they could prove they were entering the country to flee persecution or punishment on religious or political grounds. The Act targeted those deemed undesirable aliens paupers (including prostitutes, those suffering from illness and diease and criminals). These people were blamed for societies ills and were refused entry into Britain.

In 1914, the Aliens Registration Act was established and every Alien aged 16 years and over had to register with the Police mandatory. All employers were also under strict instructions to monitor foreign workers.

Evidence of the Act exists within the records of the Wallsend Slipway & Engineering Company Limited.

A Notice regarding Alien employees at the wallsend Slipway & Engineering Company, 1916

Notice to Alien employees at the Wallsend  Slipway & Engineering Company, 1916



In order to seek and secure employment, each migrant worker had to have documentary proof of Nationality (either a Passport or Provisional Certificate), an Identity Book and an AEB4 form with a photograph. If a worker was ill and unable to work, it was highly likely they had to report to the local Police Station.

Part of the Register for Aliens from the Wallsend Slipway & Engineering Company, c.1916

  A register of Alien employees



The register of Alien employees dates from 1896 and 1917. It reveals key workers including labourers, fitters, engineers and machinists, came from a wealth of countries across Europe including Sweden, Russia, Belgium and Italy.

Over the course of the 20th century, key immigration legislation has been enforced, including


Aliens Restriction Act 1914
This required each foreign individual to mandatory register with the police, applied to those aged 16 and over.


Aliens Act 1919This repealed 1905 Act and bought in new charges for incitement to rebellion and industrial unrest by aliens.


Commonwealth Immigration Act 1962 A new work voucher scheme was introduced for potential Commonwealth immigrants.


Commonwealth Immigration Act 1968 Tighter controls included potential immigrants proving they, their parents or grandparents had been born in Britain.


Immigration and Asylum Appeals Act 1993 This Act incorporated the UK's obligations under the 1951 UN Convention on refugees into UK law. It also ensured that refused asylum seekers had the right to appeal negative decisions on their applications, but laid down strict time limits.


Immigration and Asylum Act 1999 The 1999 Act removed remaining benefit entitlement from all asylum applicants and created the National Asylum Support Service to support and disperse destitute asylum seekers.

Nationality, Asylum and Immigration Act 2002 This Act puts emphasis on the control and removal of unsuccessful applicants.

Read this ...

Roger Kershaw and Mark Pearsall, Immigrants and Aliens, A Guide to sources on UK Immigration and Citizenship (Crown, 2000)

Available from Tyne and Wear Archives Service (Reference only)