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  1. ITV Report

Child sex abuse inquiry: Vulnerable children exposed to 'unacceptable depravity' when sent overseas

Vulnerable British children shipped overseas in a long-running migration programme were exposed to "unacceptable depravity" including torture, sexual abuse and slavery, an inquiry has heard.

The scheme saw an estimated 150,000 children from poor families being sent to parts of the British Empire between 1920 and 1974, by religious orders and charities who said they would lead better lives.

Many suffered physical, mental, and sexual abuse in homes and schools run by these institutions in Australia, Canada, New Zealand, and Southern Rhodesia which is now modern-day Zimbabwe.

ITV News Reporter Sejal Karia is at the hearing:

David Hill, who was a child migrant sent to Fairbridge Farm School at the age of 12, said that he was "more fortunate than most" because his mother joined him and his brothers later, but said many suffered from abuse.

He has spoken to many former Fairbridge children and from his research, he told the Inquiry, he believes that sexual abuse took place on a much wider scale than initially thought, estimating that around 60% of children were abused.

He spoke of children as young as four who never saw their parents again, and were "the least protected, the most vulnerable, and the most abused".

Mr Hill broke down as he spoke about the need for an "understanding of the long-term consequences" of the abuse.

He said many child migrants "never recover and are permanently afflicted with guilt, shame, diminished self-confidence, low self-esteem, fear, and trauma".

David Hill, speaking to the Inquiry Credit: IICSA

He told the Inquiry how the British government had investigated 26 child migrant centres in Australia and compiled a blacklist of institutions "not fit for children", before tearing up the blacklist under political pressure.

"The government quietly tore up the blacklist and allowed hundreds more children - including me - to go to institutions it had already condemned as unfit.

"Not only did they allow the children to go, but continued to financially subsidise the child migrant scheme," he said. "This was covered up and kept secret for the best part of 40 years."

In 2009, Australia apologised for the cruel treatment of the child migrants, and Britain apologised in 2010.