Govts ‘failed to protect kids sent abroad from abuse’

Successive British governments failed to protect children who were sent to live abroad from sexual abuse for decades, according to a high-profile report.

The conclusions were by the Independent Inquiry into Child Sexual Abuse (IICSA) which has been looking into child migration programmes as well as abuse claims in the UK.

Thousands of British children were taken to former colonies, mainly Australia and Canada, between the 1920s and 1970s.

Most were from deprived backgrounds and already in care when they were promised the chance of a better life.

But the report heard from witnesses who said ‘care’ regimes where they were sent included “physical and emotional abuse, neglect and sexual abuse” against children as young as five.

Some witnesses told the inquiry of the “constant hunger, medical neglect and poor education” they faced abroad.

The IICSA, chaired by Professor Alexis Jay, also found children were lied to about their family background, including whether their parents were alive or dead.

The investigation into child migration programmes is the first of 13 investigations under way by the IICSA to be published.


Image: Thousands of British children were taken to former colonies, mainly Australia and Canada, between the 1920s and 1970s

The report made three recommendations:

:: It recommended all child migrants are financially compensated by the Government through a redress scheme.

:: It called on all organisations involved in implementing migration programmes to offer apologies to child migrants.

:: It called for better preservation of child migrants’ records.

The report said the Government has not yet made any financial payments to individual former child migrants.

It’s thought there are around 2,000 child migrants still alive.

In 2010, the then prime minister Gordon Brown issued a national apology to those affected by the programmes, saying “successive governments have failed in a duty of care”.

In response to the report, a Department for Health and Social Care spokesperson said: “The child migration policy was misguided and deeply flawed.

“Successive governments have accepted that the policy of child migration was wrong.”

The 2010 national apology has been reaffirmed in each subsequent year.

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Over £9m has been made available to former child migrants to help them be reunited with their families.

“We will carefully consider the findings of the inquiry’s report and respond in due course”, said the spokesperson.

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