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Operations at treatment homes for children to be assessed

Minister of Social Affairs Magnús Stefánsson said this week that a detailed assessment of operations in treatment homes for children, which were run in Iceland from 1950 to 1970, is planned.

Last Friday Icelandic daily newspaper DV ran a story on the treatment home in Breidavík in the Westfjords, which is now defunct. DV reported that troubled boys who were sent to the home in the 50s and 60s endured physical and sexual abuse from other boys and staff members on a daily basis.

This story was also reported in the evening news on national broadcaster RÚV and some of the men who had lived at Breidavík as young boys were interviewed in RÚV’s news review program Kastljós and confirmed DV’s story.

One of the interviewees, Páll Elísson, who was sent to Breidavík in 1963, when he was nine, and stayed there until 1967, said he had been repeatedly raped during his stay. Hallgrímur Sveinsson, who was the director of the state-run treatment home until 1964, told RÚV yesterday that he was shocked by Elísson’s statement.

Sveinsson said he had not been aware of how Elísson had been treated. Sveinsson said he would apologize for the violence Elísson suffered, as he felt partly responsible because he had been the director of the treatment home at the time. None of the former staff members of Breidavík that RÚV approached said they had known about the violence.

According to Fréttabladid, children who stayed at other treatment homes in Iceland during the same period may also have been victims of violence, like at Bjarg, a home for troubled girls near Reykjavík.

“It is necessary for people who were victims of violence as children and for those who ran treatment homes for children at that time, but were not violent, [that an assessment of the operations of treatment homes for children is conducted],” Minister for Social Affairs Magnús Stefánsson said.

The Ministry for Social Affairs is currently looking at how authorities in the Scandinavian countries reacted to such cases.

In Norway victims in a similar case were given ISK three million (EUR 33,800, USD 44,000) in compensation and a public apology was issued.

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