100 to sue government for forced child migration
After the second world war, 4,000 children were sent abroad to Australia and Zimbabwe as part of a government resettlement scheme. These forced child migrants, some as young as three years old, were vulnerable – usually already in social care, often from deprived backgrounds – and many had never left their hometown. They were promised a better life in the Commonwealth, but went on to become victims of abuse and exploitation thousands of miles from home.
Earlier this year, the Independent Inquiry Into Child Sex Abuse declared that the 2000 surviving victims should receive financial compensation within the year, yet the British government has failed to establish a scheme to facilitate this. Since the government was instructed to provide compensation, 14 survivors have died.
It was revealed recently that over 100 people who were forced to become child migrants under the scheme are suing the UK government, for the alleged sexual, physical and emotional trauma they suffered.
The scheme was intended to increase the white population of the colonies while easing the strain on social care in the UK, with many children being recruited by religious institutions and charities. Some were well intentioned, with the hope of giving children a new life, but far away from relatives or carers the children had no one to report poor conditions and abuse to. The scheme continued until the 1970s.
It wasn’t until the early 1980s former migrants realised that they may have living relatives in the UK, and the process of reuniting families began to take place. In the late 1990s, the UK Health Select Committee began to examine the claims, highlighting some of the more infamous places of abuse such as the Christian Brothers institution, Bindoon and Fairbridge Molong. It was not until 2010 that Gordon Brown, on behalf of the British government, apologised for the forced migration scheme.
Many of the migrants feel that time is running out as they age, and while compensation can never put the scandal right, suing the government may be a quicker way to receive the compensation they deserve.