Campaigns image RRR.jpg

Campaigns

It soon became clear that to improve the position of former Child Migrants and their families, CMT had to campaign and move forward on 3 related fronts: 

1. Recognition

Firstly, child migration was a hidden chapter in Britain’s past and the histories of the countries which accepted child migrants over the past century. Child migration policy was missing from public memory. Former Child Migrants knew little about their personal identity or early childhood and their family history. Similarly, many childcare agencies involved lacked a solid grasp of their past role in migrating children.

Consequently, CMT faced huge challenges in raising the profile of child migration and enhancing public awareness of the injustices confronting former Child Migrants. This explains CMT’s heavy investment of time and energy on newspaper articles, books and television programmes. 

Child migrants needed to reclaim their personal histories just as the countries involved needed to rediscover or learn for the first time about their child migration policies. Press articles led to books which inspired documentaries and drama on the stage, television and eventually the cinema. Finally, full scale exhibitions in museums and memorials have informed a new generation.

This growing recognition led to parliamentary inquiries in the UK and Australia and, several years later, public apologies by both nations in 2009/10. While there is much greater awareness now of Britain’s history of child migration, some are still shocked to learn that children were deported until 1970. Similarly, the UK lacks any national memorials to those children it shipped overseas.

2. Rights

We all have a right to our personal identity and a right to family life.

But what happens if you don’t know your date of birth or the names of your parents, or even if you have any brothers or sisters?

The simplest solution to these puzzling questions is to find full birth certificates for former Child Migrants and conduct detailed family research. Obviously, if a former Child Migrant lives oceans away from the records and lacks a computer, this is a complex task. Bringing families together after decades of painful separation is also complicated so social work and research services are vital. Their provision has gradually improved, especially after the national apologies.  CMT has also campaigned for and secured travel funds to support family reunions. These have been essential for those who could not meet the cost of long haul flights.

3. Reparations

Sadly, being deceived about their personal identity and family background were not the only injustices suffered by former Child Migrants. Many experienced episodes or sustained abuse which often led to a range of difficulties in later life.

Some have pursued civil claims or class actions against either government or child care agencies but this road has been both long and littered with obstacles. In addition, Redress schemes have offered a measure of justice to some former Child Migrants. Again, these have been less than comprehensive or consistent. Consequently, although clearly justified, reparation has been a long time in coming and rarely offers a full settlement, especially in the most serious cases.

Governments seem to have regarded the provision of services as an alternative to financial reparations. However, progress on this front was slowed by strong reactions of denial for many years. Clearly, this is another area where despite significant recent gains, much remains to be done to achieve justice.

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