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Child migrants finally receive apology

Shocking episode in UK’s history finally recognised

Young child migrants

24 February 2010


The British Government will at last recognise the terrible harm that was inflicted on thousands of people through the Child Migrant programme by making a formal apology to them.

Gordon Brown is to make a statement in the House of Commons on 24th February 2010 that will include an apology to the many children who were sent to Australia, Canada and other former colonies. He will then meet a group of Australians who were formerly child migrants at an exhibition which tells the story of child migration.  Kevin Rudd, the Australian prime minister, made a similar national apology in November 2009.

 Many of the children who were sent away came from poor families who were often told that their children were being sent to new life full of opportunity.  The reality for many was that they suffered abuse and were used as cheap labour for farmers.  Many of the children were told that they were orphans, when in fact family members were still alive. 

Leigh Day and child migrants

Frances Swaine, partner and head of the human rights team at Leigh Day, has been involved in the child migrant case for many years.  She gave evidence to the Select Committee on Health who looked at the welfare of former child migrants in 1998 and delivered a keynote paper at the 1st International Congress on Child Migration held in the US 2002, entitled Human Rights - What is just compensation for the "loss of life".

She has worked with Margaret Humphreys since 1992 to help secure this apology and has represented the International Association of Former Child Migrants from the same date.  Frances was invited to attend the apology in person. 

Frances says of the apology:

“The cruelty of a system that sent children, some as young as three, to distant countries believing that they were alone in the world defies belief today.  This apology is long over-due and is only a first step for some former migrants in coming to terms with what happened to them.  Whilst I am pleased that Gordon Brown has apologised on behalf of the Government it cannot detract from the terrible decisions that were taken that continue to affect the lives of thousands of people.” 

For more information please contact Frances Swaine on 020 7650 1200.

Information was correct at time of publishing. See terms and conditions for further details.


Information was correct at time of publishing. See terms and conditions for further details.

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