I started working on Belgian refugees in Britain in 2002, and part of the period between then and now also spawned a PhD on the subject (although I was never exempt from a hefty daytime job), but among the more intriguing responses to the topic of Belgian refugees then that still resonates largely today, is the reply in the House of Commons (July 1916) by John Whitehouse, Quaker and Liberal MP for Lanarkshire (1910-1918) on the issue of refugees and citizenship.
"Since the outbreak of war we have had the spectacle, almost unique in
the history of this country, of a great portion of the population of
another country coming to these shores in numbers unparalleled in
history. I had hoped to hear some reference in the right hon.
Gentleman's address to the position of the Belgian refugees in this
country, the schemes that have been undertaken for the organisation of
their work, and some information with regard to their numbers. I trust
we may hope before the Debate concludes that some information on this
subject will be given. It has been my privilege to have been closely
associated with the arrangements for the reception of the
refugees. I would lay down this principle:
I think the
lessons of history prove to us that in the case of refugees coming to
this country they have never remained permanently separated from the
rest of the community. In each case they have become merged in the
general national life. They have brought their own special skill, their
own peculiar handicrafts and trades into the national life, and they
have greatly added to the national wealth and character.
in the past have always been looked upon at the moment as temporary, but
nevertheless they have proved to be permanent. Following on these
reflections, and considering the problem that confronts the right hon.
Gentleman, I think it would be a great mistake if he attempted, and I do
not think he is doing so, nor do I suggest that he is going to do so,
to keep the refugees in compartments by themselves, living their own
I think the easiest way to solve the problem of the refugees, and
to get the greatest possible national benefit from their arrival in this
country, is to treat them as fellow citizens and to receive them into
our trade and industry without seeking to restrict them in any arbitrary
HC Deb 11 July 1916 vol 84 c.258-9
Completely unrelated, but still: In the EU referendum North Lanarkshire voted 62% Remain, South Lanarkshire 63%. However, Birmingham, where Whitehouse was born, voted 50.5% Leave.