Author: JOE MIDDLETON FOR MAILONLINE
More than 100 Britons who were sent to Australia as children, where many were beaten and sexually abused, are suing the UK government.
Britain’s child migration programmes saw thousands, many in care or from poor backgrounds, sent to countries including Australia and New Zealand partly to save money on care costs.
In March this year, the Independent Inquiry into Child Sexual Abuse found that successive UK governments, played a ‘central role’ in the policy and ‘failed to ensure that there were in place sufficient measures to protect children from sexual abuse’.
The findings concluded it was ‘essential’ that all living former migrants – around 2,000 people – were offered financial redress promptly.
But the British government has failed to set up any kind of scheme providing compensation.
John Glynn is one of the 100 bringing the case forward, he was sent to Christian Brothers in Western Australia when he was eight.
He was there for seven years and was beaten with a cane and sexually abused.
The 74-year-old told BBC News: ”As I get older it gets worse,
‘I think about that a lot now. They took my childhood from me. They took my country from me, my heritage.’
Under the Child Migrants Programme, poverty-stricken youngsters were compulsorily deported to Australia, Canada and other parts of the Commonwealth until it was stopped in 1970.
Most children were wrongly told that their parents had died and that they would enjoy a ‘better life’, while the parents thought the children had been adopted in Britain.
More than 100,000 British youngsters, some as young as two, were shipped abroad under programmes as far back as the 19th century.
The Government took over primary responsibility for the policy after the Second World War.
So-called ‘sending institutions’ responsible for moving the children included local authorities, charities such as Barnardo’s and religious orders.
The policy was justified as a means of slashing the costs of caring for lone children, meeting labour shortages in the colonies, while populating them with white settlers and providing disadvantaged young people with a fresh start.
The then Prime Minister Gordon Brown formally apologised on behalf of the Government in 2010 for the programmes and later gave evidence to the inquiry.
This year he said: ‘We now know that scores of children were themselves subject to abuse before they were deported to foreign countries.
‘It is clear that at least in the mid-1950s, and probably from 1947, Governments did have evidence that abuse was happening and did nothing.’
Lawyer Alan Collins, who is representing the victims, said: ‘The government needs to step up to the plate and bring into force its redress scheme.
‘Compensation can never put matters right, that’s impossible and it would be insulting to suggest otherwise.
‘But it is action, it is a recognition that meets the words that have been spoken by the politicians.’