With the help of a law which permitted the internment of “undesirable foreigners” the authorities hoped to be able to better control the refugees. The first camp was built in the south of France, at Rieucros, and others soon followed. Initially, these camps were little more than a collection of tents, but they later contained wooden barracks or buildings.
As a consequence of the war with Germany, dozens of camps in the area of France not occupied by Germany were created in order to intern “members of enemy powers” and “individuals who threatened national defence or public security.” In 1939/1940 these were still an exception. Nevertheless, these camps were a central element of the Vichy regime’s persecution of “undesirables” – above all, Jews who had fled to France. By the end of 1940, almost 50,000 people were being imprisoned in camps within the “free zone.”