Switzerland to pay compensation for 'contract children'

Switzerland's lower house of parliament approves compensation for 'contract children' who were discriminated and treated poorly in the 19th century.

Photo by: Reuters (Archive)
Photo by: Reuters (Archive)

Workers hang up a Swiss flag on the Swiss parliament building in Bern, Switzerland, November 24, 2015.

Switzerland's lower house of parliament approved on Wednesday compensation for thousands of people who were removed from their families as children and often forced to do hard physical labour because the state deemed their parents unfit to care for them.

Under a practice now viewed as cruel and discriminatory that ran from the 19th century until 1981, the "Verdingkinder" or "contract children" mostly came from poor urban families. Some were born illegitimate. Many were put to work on farms and faced adoption or sterilisation.

So called contract children, now adults, attend the initiative of seeking a restituition package in Bern on December 19, 2014.

The bill approved by the lower house earmarks 300 million Swiss francs ($308 million), or around 20,000 to 25,000 francs for each of the estimated 12,000 to 15,000 victims still alive. It must still be approved by the upper house of parliament.

The bill followed a public initiative launched in 2014 by entrepreneur Guido Fluri and backed by members of parliament from all of Switzerland's political parties.

"I'm proud of Switzerland," Fluri told broadcaster SRF after Wednesday's vote, adding that time was now of the essence to compensate the victims, many of whom are now elderly and often in poor health.

Historians say the Swiss authorities' "contract children" policy affected hundreds of thousands of people over the decades. For one year alone in the 1930s, 30,000 children were placed in foster families across Switzerland.

TRTWorld, Reuters