Belgian Prime Minister Charles Michel has apologised for the kidnapping of thousands of children born to mixed-race couples during the colonial rule of Burundi, DR Congo and Rwanda.
The “métis” children born to Belgian settlers and local women were forcibly taken to Belgium and fostered by Catholic orders and other institutions. About 20,000 children are believed to have been affected. Most fathers refused to acknowledge paternity of their children.
Some of the children, born in the 1940s and 1950s, never received Belgian nationality and remained stateless. Speaking in the Belgian parliament, Prime Minister Michel said the country had breached the children’s basic human rights, seeing them as a threat to the colonial system.
It had, he said, stripped them of their identity, stigmatised them and split up siblings. “I vow that this solemn moment will represent a further step towards awareness and recognition of this part of our national history,” he said in his statement.
Many of the mixed-race children had gone on to help Belgium become a “more open and tolerant society”, the prime minister added. Two years ago the Catholic Church apologised for its role in the scandal.
Last year, Belgian MPs called on the government to help the affected children find their biological parents and also gain Belgian nationality. Meanwhile, their mothers have also been searching for the children who were taken away from them.