Over the past eight months Hugh James has been acting on behalf of a large number of child migrants sent to Australia and Southern Rhodesia as part of the UK Government’s child migration policy.
The Independent Inquiry into Child Sex Abuse (IICSA) examined the child migration policy and found it to be misguided as a whole. Former Prime Ministers who gave evidence to the IICSA were damning of the way in which the children were cared for by the UK Government of the time.
The IICSA subsequently recommended the UK Government should compensate all child migrants as a result of the sub-standard care provided to the children. The UK Government took until 19 December 2018 to announce the UK Government will make goodwill payments to child migrants, in the meantime, a large number passed away awaiting this announcement.
Despite the delay and lack of detail, it is still a welcome announcement. The announcement does raise pertinent questions in relation to the payments which are proposed. Most importantly, when will the payments be made and how will the amounts be calculated? It is certainly the case that many child migrants suffered immeasurably on account of the sexual abuse suffered in transit and in the receiving organisations to which they were sent. Given the range of different experiences that different children had, does a set payment across the board adequately meet everyone’s needs? For instance, some who were sexually abused require ongoing psychiatric treatment and would need higher payments as a result.
Furthermore, what measures will the UK Government undertake to ensure all of those affected will be eligible for compensation? One very obvious question which comes to mind is in relation to those children who were migrated from Malta under the same child migration policy as Malta was a British dependency at the time. The IICSA did not examine these cases despite them being equally damaging to the children involved. Whether these Maltese child migrants will be included remains to be seen. There are also questions as to whether those children whose journeys started in Scotland or Northern Ireland will be included too.
We mentioned above that we are querying whether those who suffered sexual abuse ought to receive a higher tiered payment. Although the IICSA did not recommend this to be the case, it is certainly a feature of successful redress schemes run in Jersey and elsewhere. This does not undermine the suffering of those who were migrated and not sexually abused, but it does recognise the lasting and permanent effect of sexual abuse on a child.
The UK Government has finally done the right thing in announcing this payment scheme, but there is a lot of work to be done to ensure it is run justly and appropriately.
For more information about the rights of child migrants or to speak to one of the team, visit the sexual abuse page.