The Independent Inquiry into Child Sexual Abuse in England and Wales is to hold its first public hearings later.
It will start by examining the cases of British children sent to Australia between 1945 and 1974.
The inquiry will look at allegations children were picked by paedophiles to travel abroad and claims of a cover-up.
It will eventually investigate claims against councils, religious organisations, the armed forces and public and private institutions.
The inquiry, set up in 2014, has been dogged by controversy and is now on its fourth chairwoman.
The abuse scandal of the children sent abroad
Between 7,000 and 10,000 British children from poor families and the care system were sent to live in Australia after World War Two.
They were recruited by religious institutions from both the Anglican and Catholic churches, or well-meaning charities, including Barnardo’s and the Fairbridge Society, with the aim of giving them a better life.
Many, however, went on to suffer physical and sexual abuse in homes and so-called farm schools run by religious orders and charities.
Clifford Walsh, 72, claims he was raped and beaten at a Catholic institution, known as the Bindoon Boys Town, which was run by the Christian Brothers.
He recalls one brother luring him into his room with the promise he could have some sweet molasses – normally fed to cows – where he was abused.
“We had no parents, we had no relatives, there was nowhere we could go, these brothers – these paedophiles – must have thought they were in hog heaven,” said Mr Walsh.
The BBC’s home affairs correspondent Tom Symonds says the inquiry will be told that the scale of sexual abuse they suffered was much wider than previously thought.
Thirteen former child migrants are expected to have their evidence heard the first week of the hearing.
David Hill was 12 years old when was sent to Australia on the promise of a better life – but was beaten and abused.
He told Radio 4’s Today programme: “Every childhood last a lifetime, and if you smash and break a child, you end up with a maimed adult.
“The research I’ve done into the sexual abuse of my colleagues at these child migrant centres suggest they never recover.
“It’s a lifetime of low self-esteem, diminished confidence, guilt, shame, fear, trauma.”
He said he hoped the inquiry would promote a public awareness of the terrible consequences of sexually abusing children.
In 2009, the Australian government apologised for the cruelty shown to the child migrants. Britain also made an apology in 2010.
A £6m family restoration fund was set up to allow the migrants to travel to the UK and ministers are now considering extending it.
The independent inquiry was set up after the death of DJ Jimmy Savile in 2011 when hundreds of people came forward to say he had abused them as children.
The spotlight then fell on sexual assaults carried out in schools, children’s homes and at NHS sites, as well as on claims of past failures by police and prosecutors to properly investigate allegations.
The hearings will take place at the International Dispute Resolution Centre in London, with the first phase concerning Australia expected to last 10 days.
27 February 2017 | 10:07 am
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