Wakefield MPs meet former child migrants
The Prime Minster has apologised on behalf of the nation to thousands of children who were deported at the end of the Second World War. Former Wakefield MP David Hinchliffe worked tirelessly on the issue for many years and went to Parliament to see the apology in person. Mr Hinchliffe was joined by his successor Mary Creagh MP who paid tribute to his work on behalf of the former child migrants.
In the post-war era, approximately 7,000 children were shipped to Australia while New Zealand, Rhodesia and Canada received a combined total of about 1,300 children. Children between the ages of 3 and 14 (but mostly between the ages of 7 and 10), were selected from institutional care homes and sent overseas by specialist agencies.
In apologising, the Prime Minister said that the child migrant scheme was misguided and devastated the lives of many children and their families. “As a nation we are truly sorry for the suffering caused. We apologise and are helping former child migrants by supporting the survivors and the Child Migrants Trust. We cannot undo what has happened but we can take action now to support people to reclaim their identities and regain their dignity. We have established a £6 million fund to help former child migrants access the support they need.”
Former Chair of the Health Select Committee and Wakefield MP until 2005, David Hinchliffe said: “In Australia we took evidence from hundreds of former migrants, It was an incredible experience, members of the committee were breaking down because of the appalling stories. I couldn’t understand how British society could have done what it did to these people. Britain sent these kids to the other side of the world and then washed their hands of them. Many of these children were told they were orphans but it was a pack of lies. I’m very proud of my work with the Commons Health Select Committee and that the Prime Minister has apologised on behalf of the nation.”
Wakefield MP Mary Creagh said: “The deportation of British children over this period is one of the most shameful and horrific in our country’s history. As an MP and a mother I was deeply moved to read the terrible injustice suffered by these children, who were sent away from their families, lied to and robbed of their childhoods. They were treated as virtual slave labour and suffered hunger, poverty, emotional neglect and in many cases sexual abuse. I pay tribute to my predecessor as MP for Wakefield, David Hinchliffe, who as Chair of the Health Select Committee campaigned tirelessly for these forgotten children to be recognised by the UK.”