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IICSA Independent Inquiry into Child Sexual Abuse

Child Migration Programmes Investigation Report

Part A. Introduction

The Protection of Children Outside the United Kingdom investigation is an inquiry into the extent to which institutions and organisations based in England and Wales have taken seriously their responsibilities to protect children outside the United Kingdom (UK) from sexual abuse. 

This broad topic has been divided into Case Studies. The first Case Study has been an examination of any institutional failings by organisations based in England and Wales relating to the sexual abuse of children involved in child migration programmes.

These programmes involved the removal of children from care homes or their families in England and Wales, and the placing of those children in institutions or with families abroad, unaccompanied by their parents. Most British child migrants were sent to Canada, Australia, New Zealand and Southern Rhodesia (now Zimbabwe). Government departments, public authorities and private and/or charitable organisations in England and Wales played various roles in these programmes.

Previous studies, such as the 1998 review of the welfare of former British child migrants conducted by the House of Commons Select Committee on Health,[1] have recognised that child migrants were frequently subjected to harsh conditions, physical abuse and sexual abuse prior to their migration, during their journey and at the institutions to which they were sent. The UK government has previously acknowledged that children were mistreated in the child migration programmes. In 2010, then Prime Minister, Gordon Brown made a public apology to former child migrants.[2]

The responsibility of some of the receiving institutions for the sexual abuse of children, and the adequacy of reparations to former child migrants, have been considered by the Australian Royal Commission into Institutional Responses to Child Sexual Abuse (Australian Royal Commission).[3]

The Historical Institutional Abuse Inquiry in Northern Ireland (HIA), which reported in January 2017, has also examined the experiences of 50 applicants who were in institutions in Northern Ireland before being sent to Australia as child migrants.[4] 

However, there remains little public awareness in England and Wales of the full extent of these programmes, how they were conducted, their effects on the children who were subject to them and, particularly, the allegations and evidence of sexual abuse related to them.

To date, no public inquiry in England and Wales has undertaken a sustained and specific analysis of allegations of sexual abuse of child migrants and possible failings by institutions based in England and Wales in relation to that abuse. That is what this Case Study seeks to address. Many former child migrants are of advancing age and we understand that many are in poor health, which made this Case Study particularly urgent for the Inquiry.

The process adopted by the Inquiry is set out in Annex 1 to this report. Core Participant status was granted under Rule 5 of the Inquiry Rules 2006 to two individuals and five institutions. We held three preliminary hearings in July 2016, February 2017 and May 2017 to open the Case Study and to deal with procedural matters. The Inquiry conducted substantive public hearings at the International Dispute Resolution Centre, London, on 20 days in February, March and July 2017.

The Inquiry took evidence from a wide range of sources. It obtained many thousands of pages of witness evidence and documentary material. The witnesses who gave evidence to the Inquiry included former child migrants, Dr Margaret Humphreys of the Child Migrants Trust (CMT), representatives of the organisations in England and Wales involved in the programmes, and two former British prime ministers. In addition, Professor Stephen Constantine (Emeritus Professor of Modern British History at the University of Lancaster) and Professor Gordon Lynch (Professor of Modern Theology at the University of Kent), experts on the child migration programmes, provided extensive assistance to the Inquiry. They produced a joint report and 21 Addenda reports. Relevant material was disclosed to Core Participants.

The temporal focus of the Case Study was the post-Second World War (‘Post-War’) period, but it was necessary to consider some evidence relating to the years before 1945 in order properly to understand what came later.

References in the footnotes of the report, such as ‘EWM000005’, are to documents that have been adduced in evidence and can be found on the Inquiry’s website. A reference such as ‘Lynch 11 July 2017 15/1-16/5’ is to the hearing transcript that is also available on the website. That particular reference is to the evidence of Professor Lynch on 11 July 2017 at page 15, line 1 to page 16, line 5 of that day’s transcript.

The issues that we have sought to address in this Case Study derived from the definition of the scope of the Case Study set by the Inquiry and the Terms of Reference for the Inquiry set by the Home Secretary, are as follows:

a. The extent to which government departments, public authorities, private and/or charitable institutions based in England and Wales were aware of allegations or evidence of sexual abuse concerning children involved in child migration programmes;

b. The extent to which any of those bodies should have been aware of allegations or evidence of sexual abuse concerning children involved in child migration programmes;

c. Whether, if any of those bodies were, during the migration period, aware of allegations or evidence of sexual abuse concerning children involved in child migration programmes, they took appropriate steps in response;

d. Whether those bodies took sufficient care to protect children involved in child migration programmes from sexual abuse;

e. Whether, if any of those bodies were, after the end of the child migration programmes, aware of allegations or evidence of sexual abuse concerning children involved in those programmes, they took appropriate steps in response;

f. What support and reparations, if any, have been offered to individuals who suffered sexual abuse relating to their inclusion in child migration programmes; and

g. Whether any support mechanisms and reparations offered to individuals who suffered sexual abuse relating to their inclusion in child migration programmes have been adequate.

Our findings are set out in bold, italicised text.

References

Footnotes

  1. House of Commons, Health Committee, Session 1997-98, Third Report (1998).
  2. HC Deb, 24 February 2010, col 301.
  3. Australian Royal Commission into Institutional Responses to Child Sexual Abuse, Report on Case Study No 5, Salvation Army Riverview Training Farm, Queensland; Report on Case Study No 11, Christian Brothers homes at Castledare, Clontarf, Tardun and Bindoon in Western Australia; Report on Case Study No 26, St Joseph’s Orphanage, Neerkol.
  4. Report of the Historical Institutional Abuse Inquiry (delivered to the First Minister of Northern Ireland on 6 January 2017), Module 2, Chapter 6.
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