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|Acts of Parliament and Migration Records, 1793-1798|
The first laws introduced by Parliament relating to the control of migrants in Britain came about because of a war. In 1789 there was a revolution in France which resulted eventually in the execution of the French king, Louis XVI, and the government of France by revolutionary forces. Four years later France and Britain were at war. Until then there had been very little control over people coming to England but in 1793, when many refugees were arriving from France, the government introduced a Regulations of Aliens Act (Regulations of Aliens Act 1793).This new law meant that all foreigners coming to Britain had to register with officials. This - and another law introduced in 1798 - established a system of registration of migrants who were required to sign declarations at ports of entry into Britain. Migrants already living in Britain - and those arriving after January 1793 - had to give their names, ranks, occupations and addresses to a magistrate. In March 1797, the Home Secretary sent round a circular asking for details of those that had arrived since May 1792. Householders who had taken in migrants as lodgers had to give details to local officials.
In order to leave London, newcomers had to obtain passports from the Secretary of State in London and were restricted to stay either in the ports where they had first arrived or to certain areas inland. In 1793, a Superintendent of Aliens was appointed, and his department became known as the Aliens Office. It was concerned with the registration of migrants and issued directions to local agents, mayors and local officials on the detention or expulsion of migrants, and made enquiries about the character of foreigners seeking naturalisation.
Most of the early records of the Aliens Office have been destroyed but Foreign Office Records at The National Archives, reference FO 83/21 contain lists of migrants arriving at British ports for the period August 1810-May 1811.
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