Forced child workers rush to claim compensation

A major photo exhibition on discarded children and their stories took place in Bern in November 2016-March 2017 Keystone

The number of former “discarded children” who have applied to receive reparations through a government programme has spiked ahead of an Easter deadline, it has been reported.

This content was published on March 31, 2018 - 17:19

Switzerland has agreed to payExternal link up to CHF25,000 ($26,200) in compensation to those who as children were victims of forced labour policies or placement in institutions, often suffering abuse or neglect. The “Verdigkinder” practice continued until 1981.

+ Read more about the historical background to “discarded children”

The number of people who had asked for compensation was 4,500 at the beginning of the year. But by March 30 it had risen to 7,839, the Federal Office of Justice told Swiss public television SRF.

Guido Fluri, who launched an initiativeExternal link in 2014 to spur the reparations, said that the last-minute rise was the fruit of an information campaign over the past months. “We were able to reach people who were isolated, not yet informed, or undecided,” he said. The initiative’s backers hope for more than 8,000 requests. The official deadline is March 31, but according to the SRF reportExternal link, requests can be submitted until Tuesday, April 2, midnight.

Huge effort

The justice ministry said it expected 8,500 requests - originally it was prepared for around 10,000 -15,000 requests. The ministry’s Claudia Scheidegger rejected allegations that some people found the administration work daunting or were afraid of the authorities. Officials had tried everything in their power to contact people, sending out more than 10,000 letters to various organisations and care homes, she told SRF in its report.

She added that the ministry had received some messages that people were not interested because they did not want to revisit their painful histories.

The government announced the compensation scheme, which followed official apologies to the survivors of this dark period of Swiss history, in September 2016, and launched it the following December. It put CHF300 million in the fund, which is supposed to be distributed to the estimated 12,000-15,000 victims.

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