THE AUSTRALIAN FEDERAL POLICE (AFP) have revealed they are assisting the PSNI in tracking down victims of institutional abuse in Northern Ireland who may have moved Down Under.
A PSNI investigation launched in 2021 aimed to track down women and children of abuse carried out in various institutions in Northern Ireland between 1922 and 1990.
However, the force has widened its search, suspecting that affected mothers may have relocated to Australia or that the children they were forced to give up were adopted by Australian couples.
"As the investigation continues into the Mother and Baby Institutions, Magdalene Laundries and Work Houses in Northern Ireland, we are becoming increasingly aware that the people impacted by these institutions do not just reside in Northern Ireland but could now reside all over the world as far as Australia," said Detective Superintendent Gary Reid.
Inconsistent birth records
Thousands of people are said to have lived in, worked in, or visited such institutions over the 68-year period being investigated.
The institutions housed many, including pregnant women and girls, who often felt coerced into giving up their child.
Officers in the dedicated investigation team have so far received 88 reports.
Many include allegations of inconsistencies with birth records from those who were adopted from Northern Irish institutions and now live overseas.
Enquires to date suggest there could be many more victims and witnesses living around the globe.
With their Australian counterparts, the PSNI are appealing to anyone residing in Australia with links to these institutions to come forward.
This includes mothers who gave birth in one of these institutions, people who were adopted from them and anyone who visited or worked in them.
'Don't suffer in silence'
"We don't want anyone to feel they have to suffer in silence anymore and we will continue to do all we can to reach as many people with this message as possible," said DS Reid.
"We would like to reinforce that this investigation is very much ongoing in Northern Ireland.
"If you believe you were the victim of abuse or other forms of criminality in any of these Northern Irish institutions, or know somebody who was, or if you witnessed anything suspicious, please contact us, we want to hear from you.
"We care about what you have to say, will listen and support you, and will act to keep you and others safe."
A dedicated system is in place to make it easier for people in Australia to report their concerns.
Australian residents can contact the investigation team on 0011 4428 9090 1728, Monday to Friday, 9am-5pm GMT, or email [email protected]