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UK child deportations of 50s: ‘most catastrophic child abuse’ in memory


Powered by Guardian.co.ukThis article titled “UK child deportations of 50s: ‘most catastrophic child abuse’ in memory” was written by Sandra Laville, for theguardian.com on Thursday 9th March 2017 15.54 UTC

The deportation of thousands of British children to Australia, Canada and Southern Rhodesia (now Zimbabwe), created the most catastrophic child abuse legacy in living memory, the national inquiry into child sexual abuse has been told.

The author and social worker Margaret Humphreys, who exposed the scale and suffering of tens of thousands of British children taken from families under the child migrant scheme – a policy that relocated children to areas of the Commonwealth, from the 40s to the 70s – said the physical and sexual abuse, conditions of slavery and terror, removal of identities, and lies that suggested the youngsters’ parents were dead, amounted to a catalogue of crimes against the children.

“These are human rights violations,” she said. There had been collusion and cover-up by the institutions and agencies, who had kidnapped the children and put them into the hands of paedophiles. In a form of secondary abuse the same institutions who had taken the youngsters away had, in some cases, reacted with hostility when the grown-up children returned to find their families.

The removal of the identity of each child, and the fact that the children were taken so far away from anyone they knew and told they were orphans, aided the abuse, Humphreys said.

The Independent Inquiry into Child Sexual Abuse (IICSA ), in full public hearings, is investigating the sexual abuse of children who were removed from British institutions and families between 1947 and the 70s, and taken to Australia and Canada by various charities and churches, including Barnardos, the Fairbridge Society, and the Sisters of Nazareth.

The children, once abroad, were kept in farm schools, where they suffered brutality and sexual abuse, were used as slave labour and deprived of a proper education.

“The perpetrators knew there was no one for the children to turn to,” said Humphreys. “No one was going to visit them at weekends, no one was going to send them Christmas cards, and no one was going to celebrate their birthdays. So for the paedophiles this was a group of children where no one asked what was happening to them, and no one cared.”

Humphreys, who set up the Child Migrants Trust in 1987 has done more than any other individual to expose the way British children were taken from families and deported. In the last 25 years she has reunited more than a 1,000 individuals with their families in the UK.

Humphries said deported British children suffered the “greatest betrayal” because they were told their parents were dead when they were not. When she began helping individuals to find their families she started by looking for death certificates.

“In the early days people would write to me and say, ‘my parents have died, I am an orphan please help me find my family’. I spent a very, very, long time looking for death certificates of parents and of course there were no death certificates because they weren’t dead.”

Telling the children they were orphans, she said, took away all hope that anyone would come and get them, and stopped them asking questions.

Humphreys met one mother who told how she would visit her son every week in a children’s home in Liverpool. “She told me she went to see her child regularly every Saturday in the children’s home, she used to go with sweets. But on this particular Saturday she went and no children were there … someone told her they had gone to Australia.”

She found out they had left just one and a half hours before her arrival. She managed to get to Lime Street railway station as the train carrying the children was pulling away. “She ran on to the platform and saw the children on the train … she was screaming and crying, ‘get the children off, stop the train’. Her boy put his face to the window and shouted, ‘I’ll never forget you mum.’”

When Humphreys later traced other children who had been deported with the boy, they described seeing a woman running and screaming on the platform as the train pulled away. When the boy arrived in Australia he was told his mother had died in the war. But he knew that was wrong.

It took Humphreys and the Child Migrant trust a month to find the mother after the former child migrant, as an adult, turned to her for help.

“So all of those years, when he was growing up, when he was an adult, when he was getting married, having children, she was there all the time – but missing from his life.”

The IICSA inquiry continues.

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Mexico’s president ‘will not pay for any wall’ – but may still visit Trump

Powered by Guardian.co.ukThis article titled “Mexico’s president ‘will not pay for any wall’ – but may still visit Trump” was written by David Agren in Mexico City, for theguardian.com on Thursday 26th January 2017 03.44 UTC

Mexico’s president has once again declared that “Mexico will not pay for any wall” but stopped short of cancelling a visit to Washington after Donald Trump signed executive orders that include building the border barrier.

Enrique Peña Nieto reiterated that Mexico would not put a single peso towards the new US president’s signature project. In a televised address he said: “I regret and reject the decision of the US to build the wall.”

But Peña Nieto did not cancel a trip to Washington – a move many in Mexico had demanded after Trump signed an executive order to start plans for fencing off the frontier.

“I have said time and time again, Mexico will not pay for any wall,” Peña Nieto told the nation in his short video statement on Wednesday night.

“Mexico reaffirms its friendship with the people of the United States and its willingness to reach agreements with its government.”

He left up in the air the question of the 31 January meeting with Trump in the White House – saying his decision would depend on an evaluation by a team already in Washington and officials at home.

Mexicans reacted to the president’s statement with confusion. Many in the political class had called on Peña Nieto to cancel his meeting after Trump signed the executive order.

A senior government official told the Associated Press that the Mexican president was “considering” calling off the visit to Washington, but no decision had been taken.

On Thursday, Trump appeared to be goading his Mexican counterpart into pulling out of the visit, saying on Twitter: “If Mexico is unwilling to pay for the badly needed wall, then it would be better to cancel the upcoming meeting.”

Cuauhtémoc Cárdenas, a leftist former presidential candidate, told an audience in Mexico City: “If a [Mexican] presidential visit is being announced, he will be received there by having the door slammed in his face.

“I think the least we can do in these conditions would be not to show up, cancel the visit to the United States and find a dignified position for Mexico.”

Peña Nieto has encountered sustained criticism for failing to come up with a decisive strategy to deal with Trump’s combative policies.

President Trump announces ‘immediate’ construction of Mexico border wall

Trump repeatedly promised a border wall throughout his election campaign but Mexico’s political elite appeared to be hoping that the billionaire-turned-populist politician had been bluffing.

That hope proved misplaced on Wednesday, when the US president signed the order, proclaiming: “A nation without borders is not a nation.”

Trump claimed that “we’re in the middle of a crisis on our southern border”, citing an “unprecedented surge” of illegal immigrants from Central America that was harming both the US and Mexico.

The likely effectiveness of the planned wall is fiercely disputed. More Mexican immigrants have returned to Mexico from the US than have migrated to the US since the end of the 2007-08 financial crisis, according to the Pew Research Center. Research shows that immigrants are more law-abiding than non-immigrants.

Peña Nieto has consistently rejected Trump’s suggestion that Mexico will pay for the border wall and promised to put Mexico first in any negotiations.

But analysts say the president has few strong options in confronting an American administration considered the most hostile to Mexico since the Mexican-American war of the 1840s – in which Mexico was forced to cede its northern territory.

Peña Nieto – whose personal popularity ratings currently languish at 12% (the lowest in history) – appears to be caught in an impossible situation: paying for the wall would stoke domestic outrage. Not paying could provoke problems with Trump’s team, however.

“The whole thing is lose-lose. The only question is how much,” said Esteban Illades, editor of the Mexican magazine Nexos.

Trump’s executive order to build a wall along the nearly 2,000-mile US-Mexico border came on the same day Mexico’s foreign minister Luis Videgary and economy minister Ildefonso Guajardo met with senior Trump administration officials.

Wall graphic

“I would cancel the meeting [with Trump] or postpone it as a message that we’re not going to do what they want, that we’re not going to play their game,” Agustín Basave, ex-leader of the left-leaning Democratic Revolution party, told the newspaper Reforma. “I would start by saying things like we are going to review Mexico’s cooperation in the areas of security and migration.”

Others were even more direct, including ex-president Vicente Fox – who has walloped Trump with profanity-laden tweets for more than a year.

Mexican officials have expressed hopes of salvaging Nafta, which facilitates more than 0bn annually in cross-border trade, though Guajardo told Mexican TV earlier this week that Mexico would consider walking away from the deal.

Canadian officials have also mused about abandoning Mexico to forge a bilateral deal with the US if necessary, leaving Mexico’s increasingly export-oriented economy in a bind.

“If we’re going for something that is less than what we have now, it doesn’t make sense to stay in,” Guajardo told the Televisa network.

Until recently, such a posture would have been unthinkable as Mexico shifted its economy from one so closed that smuggled candy was sold in itinerant markets to one so open it has more than 40 free-trade deals with countries around the world.

trump wall

But moving away from the massive US market has proved difficult for Mexico, which sends 80% of its exports north. Peña Nieto told the nation Monday that Mexico would seek stronger ties with countries in the hemisphere, but promptly cancelled his participation in a summit of Latin American and Caribbean countries.

“The cancelation was given in such short notice that it raises suspicions that Peña Nieto would not want to meet with other leaders who would want a strongly worded statement against Trump,” Illades said.

Peña Nieto has promised to impose conditions on any negotiation with the US, including addressing issues such as smuggled guns streaming across the border, arming drug cartels, and Mexico’s efforts to detain and deport migrants who transit its territory in attempts to reach the US.

But the president is playing a weak hand, while his approval rating of just 12% is hampering his attempts at fomenting unity in a time of crisis.

“There is unity; people do not like Trump,” says Rodolfo Soriano-Núñez, a sociologist in Mexico City, “but there is this sense that Trump is not the real problem, rather trust in a presidency ridden with scandals.”

Additional reporting by David Smith

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