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Thursday, June 11, 1998 Published at 12:31 GMT 13:31 UK

UK Politics

Children's agencies deny child migration cover up

Committee is investigating how best to help those who suffered

Voluntary children's organisations including the Catholic Child Agency, the Salvation Army and Barnardos are denying charges from MPs that they deliberately covered up many aspects of their handling of child migration.

[ image: Not all the children, or their families, knew where they were going]
Not all the children, or their families, knew where they were going
The charities stand accused of classifying many of the children sent to Australia, Canada and New Zealand as orphans, although the majority were not.

Other children were sent overseas without the knowledge of parents or relatives, and were later denied details of their families.

Over 100,000 children were sent to the colonies during the 100 years child migration lasted and it only came to a halt as recently as 1967.

Cover up?

Canon Chris Fisher: "We are not in the business of cover up"
Responding to questions from David Hincliffe, the Labour chair of the Commons health committee investigating child migration, Canon Chris Fisher of the Catholic Child Welfare Council said there had been no cover up and criticised the reporting of the issue: "I think the media hype has been less than accurate."

But he declined to answer a question to from Mr Hinchcliffe as to whether or not some of the children who had been sent abroad, and who had later been denied access to their records, had been fathered by Catholic priests.

Canon Fisher did not reply to the question directly but said: "I don't think any of us would support such a scheme today."

'Deep sense of loss'

Caroline Abrahams: The NCH "categorically denies cover up"
Speaking for the National Children's Homes, Caroline Abrams explained that although modern attitudes on what is best for children differed vastly from those of the past she did say that the migration schemes had been undertaken with the support of the UK and other governments and that those concerned believed they were acting in the children's best interests.

"I think that what we now understand is that even those people who made a material success of their lives in Canada or Australia still feel a deep sense of loss because of what happened to them and the way they went."

She continued: "We feel now that they (former child migrants) should have the right not only to have the full and supported access to their records, that's a start but its not enough, very often what they are seeking is to be reunited with their relatives."

The initiative for such a move, she suggested, should come from governments in the UK, Canada and Australia but she said the voluntary agencies appearing before the committee "have a part to play here to and we should acknowledge this."

The committee is investigating the issue with a view to seeing how best to help those who suffered because of child migration and it will also consider the possibility of compensation.

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