UK apologises to shipped children

LONDON: Prime Minister Gordon Brown apologised today

for Britain’s role in

sending thousands of children to Australia and

other former colonies where many suffered physical and sexual abuse.

The Child Migrants Programme, which ended 40 years ago, sent an estimated 150,000 destitute children to a “better life” in Commonwealth countries such as Australia and Canada but many ended up in institutions or as farm labourers.

Brown said the scheme, which ran from the 1920s to the 1960s, left many people emotionally scarred for life.

“I have to apologise on behalf of a policy that was misguided and it happened right up until the 1960s. You will see when you meet people who have been affected by this, it has ruined many of their lives,” he told GMTV.

“It has certainly changed their lives in a way they should never have expected.” An estimated 150,000 youngsters aged between three and 14 were shipped to Commonwealth countries but many were abused in foster homes, state-run orphanages and religious institutions by their supposed carers.

Children were often told their parents were dead, while parents were given little information about where their offspring were going.

Survivors sent to Australia have said that when they arrived they were separated from brothers and sisters, and often subjected to brutal beatings and sexual abuse.

Brown revealed his intention to apologise for the actions of previous governments in November.

Australian Prime Minister Kevin Rudd last year offered his own apology to the thousands of British migrants who were abused or neglected in state care.

The apology echoed Rudd’s historic February 2008 apology to Australia’s downtrodden Aboriginal population for their mistreatment since white settlement in 1788. Britain’s High Commissioner to Australia, Baroness Valerie Amos, said in a statement last week the apology would be an “important milestone”.

“Over the past few

months I have met

many whose lives were blighted, and heard their personal stories,” she said.