LONDON (AP) — Britain's problem-plagued inquiry into child sex abuse finally began Monday, years after it was organized, amid revelations that entertainers, clergy and senior politicians were involved in abuse.
The far-reaching probe began hearing evidence after being beset by criticism and delays. It will scrutinize 13 institutions for child protection failings, including the army and local authorities.
The committee, chaired by Professor Alexis Jay, began its work by hearing evidence about a migration program that oversaw the resettlement of an estimated 100,000 vulnerable British children in countries such as Canada, Australia, New Zealand and Zimbabwe from the 1930s to the 1970s.
The migration program, which was funded by British taxpayers, was said to have been justified by the government at the time as a way of cutting care costs for children combined with an opportunity to meet labor shortages in British colonies.
Aswini Weereratne of the Child Migrants Trust described the mass migration as "forced or coerced deportation". She said some of the children sent abroad by the British government suffered "torture, rape and slavery."
David Hill, a former child migrant who spoke at Monday's inquiry, described the sexual abuse that he suffered in Australia. He said many child migrants never recovered from their ordeals and were left crippled by guilt and shame.
While this is the first major inquiry into the abuse claims, in 2010, former British Prime Minister Gordon Brown acknowledged and apologized for Britain's role in sending children to Commonwealth countries, where many were abused.
The inquiry came after the 2011 death of U.K. TV entertainer Jimmy Savile, who was found to have abused dozens of vulnerable children.