LONDON (AP) — The British government must pay compensation to 2,000 people who were sent overseas as children to countries where many met harsh conditions, neglect and abuse, a major inquiry into child abuse said Thursday.
More than 100,000 poor children were sent to then-British colonies including Australia, New Zealand and Canada starting in the 19th century.
The programs were intended to ease pressure on British social services, provide the children with a fresh start and supply the empire with a sturdy supply of white workers. But many children ended up in institutions where they were physically and sexually abused, or were sent to work as farm laborers.
The British government took over primary responsibility for the policy after World War II and did not end it until 1970.
The Independent Inquiry into Child Sexual Abuse said the program was “fundamentally flawed” and failed to protect children from abuse and neglect.
It said most of the former child migrants had died, but “around 2,000 migrants are alive today, and the panel considers it essential that all surviving former child migrants are offered such redress.”
Then-Prime Minister Gordon Brown apologized in 2010 for the “shameful” and “misguided” child migrant program.
Thursday’s report said other organizations involved, such as charities and local authorities, should apologize if they had not already done so.