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IICSA Independent Inquiry into Child Sexual Abuse

Child Migration Programmes Investigation Report

1.1 What was HMG’s role in child migration?

1. HMG[1] was primarily responsible for the continued existence of the child migration programmes after the Second World War. This was a deeply flawed policy, as HMG now accepts.

2. HMG’s rationale for participating in and approving the child migration programmes was a combination of reasons related to the welfare of the children and a desire to populate the white British Empire. In evidence before us, HMG (represented by Mark Davies of the Department for Health) stated that, today, it no longer defends its participation in the child migration programmes.[2] 

3. The responsibilities of the Home Office were to:

a. inspect institutions in the UK at which many child migrants spent time prior to their migration

b. provide specific consent to the migration of children in the care of local authorities; and

c. advise on subsidies for child migration programmes through the financing mechanism in the Empire Settlement Acts (ESA).[3]

4. The Home Office also performed a regulatory and supervisory function of the child migration programmes: it considered that its role was to “explain quite what would be required of an institution overseas and of a sending society in this country if the well-being of such children as are being sent overseas is to be protected.[4] In that vein, HMG liaised frequently with the voluntary societies and with other parts of Government about the operation of the migration schemes.[5] The Home Office was also empowered to propose secondary legislation setting the framework within which children were migrated by voluntary organisations, but never did so, as we discuss further below.[6]

5. The Commonwealth Relations Office (CRO) took over the roles of the Dominions Office in 1947. Its responsibilities were:

a. to approve as fit for purpose the residential institutions to which children were sent;

b. to approve applications for funding from organisations pursuant to the legislation and administer the funding; and

c. to liaise with the receiving governments via the UK High Commissioner.

HMG provided the financial, legal, regulatory and supervisory framework within which all voluntary societies and local authorities participated in the programmes, and it is unlikely that the programmes could have continued post-War without HMG’s support.



  1. We use this abbreviation to refer to the successive British Governments who were involved in the child migration programmes, and those who have held office since the programmes ended.
  2. Davies 19 July 2017 121/19.
  3. Davies 19 July 2017 127/1-6.
  4. Constantine 19 July 2017 58/15-19.
  5. Davies 19 July 2017 130/17-24.
  6. Davies 19 July 2017 126/13-24.
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