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Reparations Over 1,300 Swiss ‘slave children’ seek compensation

Victims of the child labour policies posed with their childhood photos in front of the parliament building in 2014

(Keystone)

More than 1,300 victims of Switzerland’s foster care system forced to work on farms or live in children’s homes in the 1940s to 1980s have applied for financial compensation, the Swiss justice ministry said on Thursday. 

To date, just under 600 applications for compensation have been granted, while 138 have been rejected and the rest will be handled by the beginning of 2016, the ministry said in a statement. June 30 was the cut-off date to apply. A little less than CHF8,000 ($8,400) per person has been distributed, for a total of CHF4.6 million so far. 

The payments were made from a crisis assistance fund of CHF5.7 million consisting of contributions from the cantons, municipalities and other organisations. Initially, the fund was expected to contain CHF7-8 million, but numerous groups – among them the Swiss Farmers’ Union – refused to contribute. Donations are still awaited from the churches. 

In June the Swiss cabinet proposed the creation of a solidarity fund partially financed by the government and containing up to CHF300 million. A consultation period for discussion of the options opened at the end of June. 

In practices that lasted until the 1980s, tens of thousands of Swiss children and teenagers were taken away from their families and placed in foster care, often on farms, because their families were deemed by the authorities to be incapable of caring for them. 

It is estimated that up to 15,000 victims of the forced labour and sterilisation policies are still alive.

swissinfo.ch and agencies

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