iicsa
The IICSA panel comprises Drusilla Sharpling CBE; Chair of the Inquiry Prof. Alexis Jay OBE; Ivor Frank; and Prof. Sir Malcolm Evans KCMG OBE IICSA

The Independent Inquiry into Child Sexual Abuse (IICSA) has finally had its first hearing with a former child migrant who is urging authorities to "name the villains" responsible for the sexual abuse of children sent abroad.

Two-and-a-half years after the probe began, and on its fourth chair, IICSA began hearing testimony on Monday 27 February, with the historic child migration scheme coming under scrutiny first.

The inquiry has been dogged by controversy since it was set up in 2014 in the wake of hundreds of people saying they had been abused by the late Jimmy Savile.

Now led by Professor Alexis Jay the probe will investigate 13 strands of inquiry including claims against councils, religious organisations, the armed forces, and public and private institutions.

The first phase of the hearing concerns thousands of children who were relocated to Australia and other parts of the British Empire from 1920 to 1974 as part of a child migration programme.

The large-scale programmes saw around 130,000 children from poor families or in the care system sent to destinations in Australia, New Zealand, Canada and South Rhodesia (now Zimbabwe).

Often arranged by charities or religious organisations, children were placed in institutions or at farm schools where they were put to work, some facing hard labour and "unacceptable depravity" at the hands of those tasked with protecting them.

In some cases the children's families were not consulted before the move and children were split from siblings.

Alexis Jay
Social-worker and academic Professor Alexis Jay, OBE is the fourth person to take the role as chair of the child abuse inquiry Home Office

One of those former child migrants, David Hill, who waived his anonymity, told the inquiry there was an "endemic" problem of sexual abuse at Fairbridge Farm School in Molong, Australia.

"Many never recover and are permanently afflicted with guilt, shame, diminished self-confidence, low self-esteem and trauma," he said.

"We will never be able to undo the great wrong done to these children but what is important to survivors of sexual abuse is, where this inquiry is satisfied with the evidence, to name the villains."

The Australian government and the British government have apologised for the cruelty the child migrants suffered.

The hearings are taking place at the International Dispute Resolution Centre in London, with the focus on child migration expected to last 10 days.

The spotlight will then fall on sexual abuse carried out in schools, children's homes and at NHS sites, then claims of past failures by police and prosecutors to properly investigate sexual abuse allegations.

The IICSA has been criticised for taking on too broad a remit and has been forced to apologise and refer itself to the information commissioner after mistakenly sending out confidential information relating to abuse victims.

In a related video Dame Lowell Goddard steps down as head of child sex abuse inquiry IBTimes UK

The inquiry has already cost £23.6m ($29.4m) to date and has seen the departures of Baroness Butler-Sloss, Fiona Woolf and Dame Lowell Goddard, as well as two of their most senior lawyers.

One of the largest groups representing abuse victims' in the probe, the Shirley Oaks Survivors Association, said the process has become a "stage-managed event" that enables "the guilty to wash their dirty hands, whilst the establishment pats itself on the back".