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Child Migration Programmes

Investigation Report

Over a period of many years before and after the Second World War, successive United Kingdom governments allowed children to be removed from their families, care homes and foster care in England and Wales to be sent to institutions or families abroad, without their parents. These child migrants were sent mainly to Canada, Australia, New Zealand and Southern Rhodesia (now Zimbabwe). Government departments, public authorities and charities participated in these child migration programmes and were responsible, to varying degrees, for what subsequently happened to the children. Post-war, around 4,000 children were migrated, mostly to Australia.

This report sets out the results of the Inquiry’s investigation into the experiences of child migrants, and the extent to which institutions took sufficient care to protect these children from sexual abuse. The investigation also examined the extent to which the institutions involved knew, or should have known, about the sexual abuse of child migrants and how they have responded to any such knowledge. Finally, it considered the adequacy of support and reparations for sexual abuse, if any, which have been provided by the institutions concerned. Although the focus of the Inquiry is on sexual abuse, the accounts of other forms of abuse provide an essential context for understanding the experiences of child migrants.

Many witnesses described ‘care’ regimes which included physical abuse, emotional abuse and neglect, as well as sexual abuse, in the various settings to which they were sent. Some described constant hunger, medical neglect and poor education, the latter of which had, in several instances, lifelong consequences. By any standards of child care, then or at the present time, all of this was wrong.