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Former child migrants begin High Court legal action against UK Government

Lawyers representing British citizens sent overseas as children launch legal challenge against lack of action by UK Government in setting up a redress scheme

In 1947 the SS Asturias took the first post-war child immigrants to Australia

25 November 2018

Lawyers representing British citizens sent overseas as children, as part of the UK’s child migration programmes, have launched a legal challenge against the Government’s lack of action in setting up a redress scheme for the former child migrants, many of whom suffered physical and sexual abuse as a result of the policy.

Law firm Leigh Day, on behalf of the International Association of Former Child Migrants and their Families has today sent a Letter Before Claim to the Department of Health and the Home Office over the UK Government’s failure to respond to the recommendations in a report by the Independent Inquiry into Child Sexual Abuse (IICSA).

The report published in March this year by the IICSA recommended that the UK government establish a Redress Scheme for all surviving former child migrants. The IICSA, chaired by Professor Alexis Jay, was damning of successive UK governments over their central role in the child migration policy which it concluded had not ensured sufficient measures were in place to protect children from abuse when sent overseas.

The UK’s child migration policy involved the deportation overseas of thousands of children, many of whom were in care or from impoverished background, often without parental consent.

The child migration programmes came to an end in 1970. Post war child migration was declared a “fundamentally flawed policy’’ in the IICSA report and a redress scheme was suggested with payments to start within 12 months, which would be by 1 March 2019.

A statement by Jackie Doyle-Price, the Parliamentary Under Secretary of State for Health and Social Care on 3 July 2018, announced that the Government intended to give a formal response to the recommendations by the summer recess in 2018.

However, according to the International Association of Former Child Migrants and their Families, the UK government has failed to issue a substantive response to the findings of the IICSA report or confirm that it will set up the recommended Redress Scheme.

The campaign group describe the lack of action by the Government as causing considerable distress and concern to the remaining child migrants, many of whom are advancing in years. For them, the establishment of the Redress Scheme by the UK government is vital to deliver accountability and recognition of the harm caused through the child migration programmes, according to their president Norman Johnston.

Leigh Day have now written to the Government threatening them with a High Court legal challenge over what they allege is a complete failure to engage with, or formally respond to, the recommendations in the IICSA report.

Norman Johnston, President of the International Association of Former Child Migrants and their Families said: “To date, at least 21 former child migrants are known to have passed away without justice since the report was issued. For them, for those child migrants who gave their painful testimony before the Inquiry in London, and for those of us still waiting we cannot sit by, waiting for the government to do the right thing.”

Alison Millar, Partner at Leigh Day who is representing the International Association of Former Child Migrants and their Families said:

“The IICSA is a statutory inquiry, established by the UK Government, with the specific mandate of scrutinising the role of government bodies, such as the Home Office and the Department of Health, and making official recommendations for the treatment of abuse survivors, like the former child migrants.

“Eight months is more than a reasonable timescale for the Government to begin to implement the clear and urgent proposals set out in the IICSA’s March 2018 report on Child Migration.

“As the IICSA’s report shows, the UK’s child migrants were badly let down by the Government when they were children. We call on the Government to respond to our Letter Before Action by the swift establishment of a Redress Scheme that provides the surviving child migrants with the compensation that, after so many years, they rightly deserve.

“Consecutive governments have let these British citizens down. First as children deported to foreign lands without any safeguards, then as adults left to cope alone with what they had endured and now this government, faced with recommendations from its own inquiry, is letting them down again in their advancing years.

"Following the shameful delays to establish compensation to help the Windrush generation, this again appears to be a case of putting elderly British citizens at the back of the queue while internal political squabbles take precedence.”

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