The Guardian | Britain's child migrants lost their childhoods to years of hard labour

Ten-year-old twins Brian Thomas Sullivan (left) and Kevin James Sullivan from Islington, London, carry their luggage to the boat train at Liverpool Street station bound for Auckland, New Zealand, under the Child Migrant programme. Photograph: AP

Ten-year-old twins Brian Thomas Sullivan (left) and Kevin James Sullivan from Islington, London, carry their luggage to the boat train at Liverpool Street station bound for Auckland, New Zealand, under the Child Migrant programme. Photograph: AP

Gordon Brown today apologised for the abuse of children transported thousands of miles from home

The philanthropists who sent Britain's "orphans" thousands of miles overseas to farms in Australia and Canada believed they were performing a charitable deed.

Between the 1920s and the 1960s as many as 150,000 young children were despatched to institutions and foster homes abroad so that they might begin happier lives in the under-populated Commonwealth.

Charities including Barnardo's, the Catholic church and local authorities helped organise the emigration of youngsters aged between three and 14. So the children could make a clean start, they were usually told their parents had died.

In reality, many were children of single mothers who had been forced to give them up for adoption in an era when their solitary status constituted a grave social stigma.

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