Gordon Brown tells inquiry that 2,000 forgotten child migrants must be compensated over abuse

Former Prime Minister Gordon Brown - Thursday 20th July 2017

Former Prime Minister Gordon Brown - Thursday 20th July 2017

BY THE OFFICE OF GORDON AND SARAH BROWN JULY 20, 2017:

In what he says could be “the worst national sex abuse scandal in numbers, length of time unchecked and geographical scope”, Gordon Brown says migrant children who suffered horrific attacks before and after being sent to Australia and other Commonwealth countries should be compensated before they die.

The former Prime Minister, who today gave evidence to the Independent Inquiry into Child Sexual Abuse, says he has become aware of so many cases he describes as “grave, horrifying and sickening”.

And he has demanded that a current Government minister must appear before the inquiry to explain why no further action has been taken since he made an apology on behalf of the UK in 2010.

He says the 2,000 child migrants – who are still alive – need not just an apology but proper redress and compensation.

Mr Brown said: “Children were denied a childhood, an identity, a family and any sense of belonging. That violation of human rights led to the 2010 apology I made on behalf of the UK.

A group of British children arrive in Australia in 1947

A group of British children arrive in Australia in 1947

“Many, some as young as three – and this was happening as recently as the 1970s – were sent abroad, often having been falsely told their parents were dead.

“But, given the new evidence of sexual abuse, our apology told only half of the story.

“The sheer scale of sexual abuse of British-born girls and boys could be worse than in the Savile scandal and further children’s homes outrages we are aware of.

”Clearly, successive governments have failed in a duty of care.”

In February, 2010, Mr Brown, who was then Prime Minister, apologised on behalf of the nation to the child migrants.

More than 130,000 UK children, some as young as three, were sent abroad to former colonies such as Australia from the 1920s to the 1960s with the promise of a new life.

Instead, they were often left vulnerable to cruelty and, in many cases, physical, emotional and sexual abuse.

After campaigning by the Child Migrants Trust – headed by Dr Margaret Humphreys who has done amazing, extraordinarily-detailed and compassionate work over three decades revealed this – and an apology by the then Australian Prime Minister Kevin Rudd, Mr Brown said in 2010: “To all those former child migrants and their families, we are truly sorry. You were let down.”

At the time Mr Brown also announced £6million for the Family Restoration Fund to help reunite former child migrants with their families.

Yesterday, however, Mr Brown said that the 2010 apology told only half of the story and he urged the inquiry: “Because we failed in our duty of care, it is now time to compensate the 2,000 child migrants still alive.

“In Australia, a national redress scheme may offer up to 150,000A$ to abused migrants. It is for Australian and other Commonwealth countries to compensate for the failure to protect and prosecute when children came to their country.

“In the recent Northern Ireland Inquiry, compensation has also been recommended. At a minimum, we should match Northern Ireland in what would be a £40million fund for national redress.

“And a UK Government minister should now come before the inquiry to explain how, as a country, the new evidence since 2010 was not acted upon and how we will offer remedy.

“My apology seven years ago was for the gross inhumane violation of rights by forcibly removing children, depriving them of identity, family and any sense of belonging.

“An unknown but clearly large number of these children were subjected to horrific assaults sometimes before, sometimes during, but in the main after they left the UK.

“Because successive governments failed in what I call their duty of care these 2,000 surviving migrants all need and deserve redress.

“And a serving cabinet minister needs to explain why governments, since 2010, have failed to act on the horrifying new evidence we now have.”

Mr Brown told the inquiry that 1,000 families have been reunited since 2010.

He added: “Many more want to be brought together before they die. There are 100 on a waiting list to come to the UK to meet their families and the Child Migrants Trust must continue to be able to bring migrants to reunite families. So in addition to the redress they need guaranteed funding for at least another five years

‘It is clear that the Australian and UK apologies in 2009 and 2010 led to a willingness to talk and brought out into the open, after 2010, the vast scale of sexual and other abuse.

“The inquiry has to put in place procedures that must ensure such abuse and violation never happens again.”

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