But not all were from orphanages, many children were separated from their families if they were poor or considered to be unsuitable. The children were not given details of their identities and sometimes told, incorrectly, that they were orphans. They were cut off from everyone and everything they knew, even being separated from brothers and sisters. When they reached their destinations some went to private homes, some to orphanages and others—usually the boys—to farm schools. The results were the same. Once in their new homes they frequently lived in harsh conditions, were used as slave labour on farms and as domestic servants and suffered physical and sexual abuse both prior to being sent abroad and after.
Sadly many of the child migrants grew up and died before they could be reunited with their families or return to Britain, and those who are still alive are elderly and sometimes infirm. So the work of the Inquiry is particularly urgent. It may be too late to help some of the survivors, or to punish some of the perpetrators, but at long last the truth will come out.
Britain had been despatching child migrants over a 350-year period. Maybe it was considered acceptable in the 18th and 19th centuries; maybe they truly believed that it was in the children's best interests, but times change and attitudes change. It is important for people today to know what happened to these children so that it doesn't happen again—not with British children or any others.