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Thursday, 17 August, 2000, 15:43 GMT 16:43 UK
Database boost for ex-child migrants
Child migrants
Children were often told their families were dead
A new database could give thousands of British child migrants who were sent to Australia between 1913 and 1968 a chance to trace their relatives.

An estimated 10,000 men and women were separated from their families or taken from care homes as children and sent across the world.

Once in Australia, they were frequently used as cheap labour or became the victims of physical or sexual abuse.

They are doing the absolute minimum about this appalling situation with the maximum exposure

Former child migrant Norman Johnston

The database, which has been compiled by Australian officials, will allow the UK Government to search for details of where each child was born and their family.

Information listed will include the child's name, date of birth, the name of the ship they left on, the date of arrival in Western Australia and where they were initially placed.

Representatives of the Western Australian Department for Family and Children's services delivered the database to the government on Thursday.

A spokesman said: "We appreciate the willingness of the British Government to share information where it can be established that former child migrants were sent to Western Australia.

"In these cases the British Government will provide the name of the sending agency and indicate where any available records on the former child migrants are in the United Kingdom."

'Empty gesture'

The International Association of former Child Migrants and their Families (IACMF) has dismissed the database as an empty gesture.

"This is a great non-event," said Norman Johnston, president of the association and former child migrant.

"There is absolutely nothing on this database I don't know for myself and both governments are making such a big deal of it.

"They are doing the absolute minimum about this appalling situation, but with the maximum exposure.

"Former child migrants in Australia are desperate to find someone they are related to. They often have no-one and the reality is no-one cares."

Children as young as three were sent to Australia on their own
Thousands of children, some as young as three, were sent to Australia until compulsory migration ended in 1967.

Many were sent during the blitz in World War II.

Often they were told they were orphans, although their families were still alive.

In 1998 the government ordered a health select committee to investigate the child migration policy.

It concluded that child migration was "a sorry episode in British history" and the government had a moral and legal duty to do something about it now.

A 1m travel fund was set up for former child migrants to visit their families in the UK.

The IACMF is calling for money to be spent on impartial organisations who help reunite families, like the Child Migrants Trust in Nottingham.

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30 Jul 98 | UK Politics
Child migration: MPs demand action
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