Renewed calls for inquiry into abuse of British children ‘trafficked’ to abusive institutions

New exhibition at V&A Museum of Childhood draws attention to the plight of British child migrants

Andy Burnham MP, Shadow Home Secretary and Former child migrants renewed calls on the Prime Minister for a full judicial inquiry into their treatment as a new exhibition into their plight opens at the V&A Museum of Childhood.

The International Association of former Child Migrants has been campaigning for a judicial inquiry to investigate why they were trafficked as children from the UK to Commonwealth countries without their parents' knowledge or consent. 

The forced deportation of an estimated 100,000 British children, some as young as four years old, continued until 1970. 

Many of the children suffered abuse in UK institutions and were then deported to abusive, understaffed orphanages where they endured further torture, criminal assaults and unspeakable acts of brutality. 

Their call for a full judicial inquiry is supported by the Child Migrants Trust, as further evidence emerges. 

This new exhibition On Their Own: Britain’s child migrants begins at the V&A Museum of Childhood from 24 October 2015 until 12 June 2016.

In June 2015, 150 former students at the Fairbridge Farm school in New South Wales, which was mainly attended by British children, won $(AUS)24m for abuse which took place between 1938 and 1974. The settlement was the largest for survivors of child abuse in Australia’s legal history.

Testimony from former British child migrants has been given to the Australian Royal Commission into institutional responses to child sexual abuse which is now investigating the response of authorities to allegations of child sexual abuse across Australia. 

In the UK, Parliament launched a Health Select Committee inquiry into Britain’s Child Migrants in 1997. However, the Chairman of the inquiry, former Labour MP for Wakefield, David Hinchliffe, told the Times last year that the inquiry was “grossly under-resourced and ill-prepared for the circumstances we uncovered”.

The British Government made a public apology to child migrants and their families in 2010. Speaking at that time, Prime Minister Gordon Brown said:

“Children as young as three were sent alone to the farthest corners of the world. The names and birthdays of some were deliberately changed so that it would be impossible for families to reunite. Some were dispatched without the consent of their mother or father. 

“Indeed many parents did not know their children had been sent to foreign shores at all – they had no idea where you were, no way of bringing you home. And this cruel and unnatural practice was, not so much transportation as deportation – deportation from your mother country.”

Margaret Humphreys CBE, OAM who founded the Child Migrants Trust, endorsed the call for a full judicial inquiry to establish how children were selected in the UK and sent to Australia to face further abuse, given the clear degree of deception and cover up that has devastated so many British families. 

She said: “It is vitally important that the British Government investigates allegations of childhood abuse in UK institutions, how those children were selected then trafficked to endure further abuse in Australia.

“The Government should now begin a full judicial inquiry into how thousands of our British children, many with families in the UK, were forcibly set abroad without their families to face appalling brutalities on the other side of the world.”

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