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Swiss government prepares to pay compensation to victims of abusive placements

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Swiss government prepares to pay compensation to victims of abusive placements
A victim of the policy. Photo: Fabrice Coffrini/AFP
09:58 CET+01:00
The first compensation payments to Switzerland’s ‘contract children’ will be distributed in January, the government has said.
Each victim who has put in a claim will be given 25,000 francs, with the first 366 payments approved by the government going to claimants who are now very old or suffering from a serious illness, the Swiss justice office said in a statement on Thursday. 
 
In a period of history that Switzerland would rather forget, over several decades up until 1981 a state-backed social policy saw tens of thousands of Swiss children forcibly removed from their families and sent either to institutions or to live with other families, often on farms.
 
Many of these contract children came from supposed problem families – their mother was unmarried or they had an alcoholic parent. Others were orphans or had sick parents who couldn't care for them. 
 
While some were treated well on their placements, others were considered little more than cheap labour, and some suffered sexual or physical abuse or were forced to undergo sterilization.
 
After years of campaigning by victims of the policy, in 2013 the Swiss government finally acknowledged its role in the scandal and apologized for what happened. In 2016 the Swiss parliament agreed to a 300 million franc compensation pot. 
 
According to an official estimation up to 15,000 living victims could be entitled to claim compensation, but to date the justice office has only received 4,310 claims.
 
Since victims only have until March 31st 2018 to make their claim, it is unlikely the initial estimation will be met. As a result, those who do claim are likely to get their money sooner than previously thought, according to the government. 
 
After the initial 366 payments are granted, priority will then be given to other urgent cases, with the rest dealt with as they come in. 
 
The compensation is primarily funded by the federal government, though the cantons and communes are free to participate if they wish. 
 
So far eight cantons and 20 communes have contributed. 
 
“In participating in this act of solidarity the cantons and communes are making an extra gesture towards atoning for the injustice done to victims,” said the government.
 
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