Britain sorry for shipping children to colonies

Wed Feb 24, 2010 12:04pm EST
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By Michael Holden

LONDON (Reuters) - Prime Minister Gordon Brown apologized on Wednesday for past British policies of shipping thousands of poor children abroad, mostly without their parents' knowledge, to former colonies where many suffered abuse.

Thousands were sent from orphanages and institutions in Britain to Commonwealth countries, mainly Australia and Canada, under the Child Migrants Programme which ended 40 years ago.

Siblings were often split up, some children were lied to and told they were orphans, while their parents had no idea where they had been sent.

Many were placed in children's homes where they suffered physical and sexual abuse, or were used as laborers on farms. The authorities deliberately changed children's names and birthdays so it was impossible for families to be reunited.

"To all those former child migrants and their families, to those here with us today and those across the world, to each and every one, I say today we are truly sorry," Brown told parliament, adding it was a "shameful episode of history."

"We are sorry that it has taken so long for this important day to come and for the full and unconditional apology that is justly deserved."

The Child Migrants Trust estimates that some 130,000 children aged 3 to 14 were sent from Britain to its colonies during the enforced settlement policy which ran from 1930 to 1970 with the stated aim of giving the youngsters a better life.

NO LOVE, NO KINDNESS   Continued...

<p>Britain's Prime Minister Gordon Brown (R) meets with women who were migrant children, (L-R) Jean Costello, Mary Johnston and Anne McVeigh at Portcullis House in London February 24, 2010. REUTERS/Peter Macdiarmid/Pool</p>