UK helps former child migrants find their families, sorry for abuse

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Child feeds birds
A child feeds seagulls on a pier at the beachside suburb of Altona in Melbourne April 12, 2010. Reuters/Mick Tsikas

A UK inquiry has wrapped up public hearings on Wednesday in relation to how child migrants were used in slave labour at Australian farm schools. They were also beaten and abuse.

British Health Secretary Jeremy Hunt has revealed that the UK government provided assistance to the Child Migrants Trust. The $11.5 million funding will provide counselling to former child migrants and will help them find the families they had been separated from.

The trust has called for full financial redress for former child migrants and ongoing funding for family reunification and counselling. Hunt assured that the government will carefully consider the recommendations of the inquiry.

A report is slated to be published later this year. It is expected to provide recommendations on a redress scheme for former child migrants, following one planned in Australia.

Child migrant abuse

Former migrants pertained to the inquiry about being sexually, physically and emotionally abused. The abuse took place at institutions run by the Christian Brothers, the royals-backed Fairbridge Society and other charity and church groups in Australia up to the 1970s.

Up to that time, at least 130,000 children in care were shipped from the UK to institutional care in Australia, New Zealand, the former Rhodesia and Canada. The parents of these children could not afford to keep them.

The inquiry was told that child migrants reporting abuse were accused of lying. They were flogged in front of other children to warn them not to complain.

In the 1940s and 1950s, Hunt noted that only a few sexual abuse cases in Australia had come to the attention of authorities in Britain. He accepted it was clear from the proof of several former child migrants that there really was abuse. "The abuse was vastly more widespread than was reported at the time,” he said.

Hunt told the UK inquiry that the child migration policy was “fundamentally flawed” back then. It led to sexual abuse of children at farm schools in Australia. In a statement read to the child sexual abuse inquiry in London, he reiterated a 2010 government apology to former child migrants. The apology was made for the suffering that the policy had caused them.

Hunt also admitted the British government failing to secure the safety and welfare of child migrants, SBS reports. It should have enacted regulations to minimize the likelihood of sexual abuse and ensure child migrants can report such cases.

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