Lisa Nandy MP: Theresa May must commit to compensation for victims of the child migrant scandal today
Lisa Nandy MP says the Government can no longer delay action as victims of the child migrant scandal are dying before they see justice served.
The child migrant scandal is, in the words of the former Prime Minister Gordon Brown, one of the worst national sex abuse scandals Britain has ever seen, “bigger in scale, bigger in geographical spread, and bigger in the length of time that went on undetected” than possibly any other.
For five decades between the 1920s and 1970s more than 130,000 children were sent from the UK to former British colonies under Child Migration Programmes. They were separated from parents and siblings and many were wrongly told that they were dead.
Children as young as 12 years old were forced to endure “backbreaking” work in wholly unsuitable conditions. Giving evidence to the Inquiry, one former child migrant said his treatment was “better described as torture than abuse”. The physical and emotional scars left by the suffering have stayed with victims into old age.
In March this year the Independent Inquiry into Child Sexual Abuse, set up by Theresa May to shine a spotlight on child abuse in the UK, published a detailed report into Child Migration Programmes which revealed the true scale of the horrendous sexual, mental and physical abuse that went on for decades, long after warnings had been raised.
It made a series of recommendations, including the need for compensation to be paid to victims and survivors “without delay”. Given the age of many victims, and the length of time over which relocations took place, the urgency with which compensation should be paid could not be clearer.
But in the four months since this report was published the government appears to have made no progress at all. The Home Office and Department for Health could not agree which department was responsible, and it took a month before the Prime Minister confirmed, in response to my question at PMQs, that the Department of Health would lead.
But still now, four months since the report was published, the Department of Health has not provided any response. During those four months, the Child Migrants Trust knows of at least ten former child migrants who have died waiting for justice.
This is a scandal. With every month that passes more people die without justice, because of delays by the state that was responsible for their harm.
Today’s debate in Parliament will give the government an opportunity to acknowledge the failed handling of this tragedy under this and successive government, to accept the recommendations of the report and to enact them without delay. When she commissioned the report Theresa May promised to leave no stone unturned in the search for justice. Anything less will be a disservice to the thousands of former child migrants who have shown real courage in their fight for truth, for justice and for lessons to be learned so this never happens again.
Lisa Nandy is the Labour MP for Wigan