Internment Camps: Southern Rhodesia – Rusape Polish Refugee Settlement

Southern Rhodesia

Rusape Polish Refugee Settlement

The British Financial Secretary of State advised the Governor of Southern Rhodesia on 11 May 1942 that between 1933 and 1939, Britain had received 55,000 German and Austrian refugees. Further, since May 1940, 63,000 refugees from the Continent and an additional 47 000 British refugees from the Channel Islands and Gibraltar had also been received.

As a result, Britain’s capacity to absorb refugees had been overwhelmed and the country was therefore seeking alternative locations as a matter of urgency. More territories under the British Empire on the African continent were expected to alleviate pressure on Britain by participating in the new scheme.

Following this communication, Southern Rhodesia received the first batch of 1,000 Polish refugees in January 1943, 500 of whom were accommodated in Marrandellas and Diggleford and another 500 in Rusapi (now Rusape). The camps established were expected to house about 500 refugees each but, by November 1944, a total of 6,831 refugees were in the colony.

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  • Keith Harrop

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