Report to shed light on "forgotten" children

Up to 100,000 children may have been affected Keystone Archive

The government is to conduct a study into the fate of thousands of children who, until the 1960s, were taken away from their families and forced into institutions.

This content was published on January 31, 2005 - 19:52

The practice is said to have affected at least 100,000 children - some of whom are alleged to have suffered abuses.

The State Secretary for Science, Charles Kleiber, said he envisaged carrying out the research with the support of the Swiss National Science Foundation.

This would ensure that the report had a national and historical dimension, said Kleiber.

He also called on the cantons to lend their support to the scheme, adding that their approval was needed to push the project forward.

To help convince the cantons, research has already been conducted in canton Vaud and another part of French-speaking Switzerland.

Kleiber said that this report had already shown that many children had suffered during the time spent away from their families.

The study also found that historical documents pertaining to the period of time in question were still available.

Symbolic recognition

Officials said the study was not being mooted as a way of paying possible damages to those affected but rather as a “symbolic recognition” of the difficulties the children had faced.

According to a recent report by Swiss television, more than 100,000 orphans and children in Switzerland were forcibly removed from their biological families and placed in institutions or foster homes up until the 1960s.

Details of the alleged abuse of some of the children are only just beginning to emerge.

“Fundamental citizens’ rights have been flouted,” Pierre Avvanzino, the co-author of the Vaud study, told the Journal du Jura newspaper, citing the example of right to education.

Moral rights were also violated, said Avvanzino, who is a professor at the School of Social and Pedagogic Studies in Lausanne.

“Many children were taken away because their parents had died or had been judged unfit [to look after them]," he said.

“The state proposed (or imposed) lessening the impact by offering an educational framework which was unworthy of the name and by participating in the marginalisation of these children,” added Avvanzino.

swissinfo with agencies

In brief

Another historical study published in 1998 found that an estimated 600 children of homeless people or travellers were taken away from their parents between 1926 and 1973 in Switzerland.

The practice was sanctioned by children's organisation Pro Juventute, with the support of the authorities.

Pro Juventute apologised in 1987. The authorities also paid damages.

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