The British government is giving a million pounds sterling ($2.6 million Cdn.) to former British child migrants to reunite them with their families.

For over a century, starting in the 1850s, thousands of British children, some as young as five years old, were sent to "white" countries of the Commonwealth, including Canada, Australia and New Zealand.

Many of the children suffered severe emotional and physical abuse.

The forced migration was seen as a way of removing children from tough economic times, while at the same time providing "good white stock" for British colonies.

Most of the children came from poor families. Many were orphans. Some, however, were removed forcibly from their families, sent abroad, given new names, and told they were orphans.

Under the scheme, an estimated 160,000 children left Britain.

The number reached its peak after the Second World War, when Britain's economy was all but shattered.

It is not known how many of the child migrants are still alive. From 1947 to 1967, between 7,000 and 10,000 children were sent to Australia alone.

The British government, in a statement announcing the fund, did not apologize for the policy. Instead, the scheme was called "misguided." Britain also said further compensation would be inappropriate, and offered its "sincere regrets."