Belgium’s Prime Minister Charles Michel has formally apologized for the country’s kidnapping of mixed race children from Burundi, DR Congo and Rwanda during the colonial era, adding that the country would do more to fight discrimination, racism and xenophobia.
The children, born born to mixed race couples in the 1940s and 50s, were forcibly abducted from their mothers and brought to Belgium where they were fostered by the Catholic Church and other institutions.
Speaking in the Belgian parliament, Charles Michel noted the country had breached the children’s basic human rights, seeing them as a threat to the colonial system.
“On behalf of the federal government, I apologize to the mixed race people with roots in Belgian colonization and to their families for the injustice and suffering they went through. I also wish to express all our compassion for the African mothers whose children were torn away from them,” said Belgian Prime minister, Charles Michel.
About 20,000 children are believed to have been affected. Most fathers refused to acknowledge the paternity of their children.
“By setting up a system of targeted segregation against mixed race people and their families in Belgian colonial Africa, the Belgian state acted contrary to respect for fundamental human rights. That is why, on behalf of the federal government, I recognize the targeted segregation of which mixed race people were victims under the colonial administration of the Belgian Congo, Rwanda and Burundi until 1962 and in the wake of decolonization, as well as forced kidnappings,” Charles Michel added.
Some of the children never received Belgian nationality and remained stateless. 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.