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Swiss pay out $4.9M to people taken from parents as children

BERLIN (AP) — Swiss authorities have paid out 4.6 million francs ($4.9 million) so far to hundreds of people who as children were taken from their parents and sent to work on Swiss farms or placed in homes.

The government-backed fund to support former “contract children” who face financial difficulties was set up last year. Many of those children experienced physical and sexual abuse from the very adults who were supposed to care for them.

More than 1,300 applications for payouts were received by the June 30 deadline, the Justice Ministry said Thursday. Around 600 of the 737 applications processed so far were approved, and the rest should be considered by the beginning of next year.

The practice of sending poor children to farms started in the early 1800s and was in full swing until the 1960s, a period during which Switzerland was transformed from a rural backwater into a wealthy and modern society.

Officially, authorities only took children away from parents who were too poor to properly care for them. In practice, historians say, Swiss authorities also targeted the children of single mothers and others whom they considered to have fallen into “moral destitution.”

The government is working on plans for a full 300 million-franc compensation fund for all victims.

Switzerland’s regional and municipal governments, companies, private organizations and individuals contributed to the existing fund for particularly needy recipients.

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