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Ministers urged to end ‘deafening silence’ on forced child migration policy

The policy saw 130,000 children shipped out of the UK over a 50-year period – often to face abuse

Ministers have been told to “end the deafening silence” and act on a report into child sexual abuse which revealed thousands of children had been sent overseas in a system of “state-sponsored child abuse”.

Labour MP Lisa Nandy urged action to address the “shameful” policy which saw 130,000 children forced from the UK to former British colonies under Child Migration Programmes between the 1920s and 1970s.

In March this year, the Independent Inquiry into Child Sexual Abuse (IICSA), set up by Theresa May, published a detailed report into the programmes which revealed the widespread abuse of children.

The inquiry heard from various former migrants who claimed they and others suffered sexual and physical abuse at the hands of those running the schools and orphanages they were sent to.

The inquiry’s report said all former child migrants should receive compensation – whether or not they were sexually abused – because all had been put at risk of sexual abuse.

Ms Nandy, who has persistently raised the issue, told MPs in a Westminster Hall debate that the silence had been “deafening” from the Government since the report’s publication.

Ms Nandy told ministers the child programmes were a “state-sponsored system of child abuse”, adding: “Many of those of children were physically and sexually abused, children as young as 12 were subjected to back-breaking work, many were psychologically tortured.

“Some of those children were as young as three years old, they were separated from parents and siblings and many were wrongly told that their families were dead.”

The Wigan MP said successive Governments had failed to act as “the politics of the day” had been consistently prioritised.

She said: “The Government didn’t want to risk its relations with Australia, it didn’t want to offend those voluntary societies who participated in the scheme, Government ministers over successive Governments were cowed by the patronage and the power of those who were involved in these schemes.”

Ms Nandy told ministers that since the publication of the report four months ago 10 survivors had died.

She said: “This has been one of the most shameful episodes in British history – for 30 years we have known about this scandal, but failed to act.

“The harm that was done then is compounded by our knowledge that this is continuing to cause harm to people in this country and across the world, but still nothing is done.”

The IICSA recommended in their report that the Government should pay the thousands of former migrants who are still alive within 12 months.

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