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Child migrant film Oranges and Sunshine opens

Frances Swaine attends film premiere at invitation of Child Migrant Trust

Oranges and Sunshine: Icon Film

21 March 2011

A new film starring Emily Watson, Hugo Weaving and David Wareham, and directed by Jim Loach, will receive its UK premier on 22nd March in London.  Oranges and Sunshine is based on the life of Margaret Humphreys, a social worker who battled to decades to reveal a shameful forced child migration scandal at the heart of the British government.  Margaret set up the Child Migration Trust when she discovered that hundreds of thousands of children, some as young as three or four, were shipped by the British government to countries such as Australia, Canada and other former colonies in the 1950s, 1960s and 1970s. 

Many of the children were classed as orphans, although many of them still had family members, brothers and sisters, and even parents still alive in Britain.  The children were sent away from Britain as part of an official child care policy that today seems breathtakingly cruel. Many of the children were abused and deprived of a loving family life when they arrived in their new homes, with many of them being used as a source of cheap labour.  

Many child migrants were sent overseas by specialist agencies such as the Fairbridge Society, established specifically for the purpose of migrating young children to populate the empire with "Good White British stock". Other well-known charities such as Barnados, the Methodist Church and the Salvation Army also supported the scheme. The Catholic Church now acknowledges that in many cases the migrant policy had a "profoundly adverse effect" on the children. 

The UK government has apologised to the child migrants for the suffering that they experienced.  Gordon Brown made a statement in the House of Commons on 24th February 2010 which recognised the terrible harm done to the children by their government when they shipped them across the world to their new lives, cut off from all contact with their home nation.

During his speech Gordon Brown said:

“On behalf of this nation, to all former child migrants and to all families, we are truly sorry you were let down. We are sorry that you were allowed to be sent away when you were at your most vulnerable. We are sorry that instead of caring for you, your country did turn its back on you. We are sorry that it’s taken so long for this important day to come round and for you to receive the apology that you so richly deserve. And we are sorry that, as children, your voices were not always heard - your cries for help not always heeded. Today we hear you.”
Link to GB’s speech here
Child Migrant Trust

The Child Migrant Trust was set up in 1987 by social worked Margaret Humphrey CBE OAM who campaigned for more than 20 years for an apology from the Governments of Britain and Australia.  The trust provides a range of social work including counselling and support for family reunions, and helping former child migrants locate their birth certificates and retrieve their files from government departments. 

Frances Swaine, partner and head of the human rights team at Leigh Day, has been involved in the child migrant case for nearly 20 years, working with Margaret in a campaign to secure restitution for individual former child migrants.  Despite an apology from Gordon Brown none of the former child migrants have ever received individual restitution from the British Government.    

Frances is delighted to be able to attend the premier of Oranges and Sunshine and hopes that the launch of the film will serve to remind those in positions of authority that devastating consequences can follow some official policies that can leave a legacy of pain and suffering that endures for years.  

If you would like 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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