Belgium’s prime minister, Charles Michel, issued a public apology Thursday for the colonial-era kidnapping, deportation and forced adoption of thousands of mix-raced children born in Central Africa, CNN reports.
According to BBC, about 20,000 “métis,” children born to White Belgian settlers and Black local women in Burundi, the Democratic Republic of Congo and Rwanda, are believed to have been affected.
During an appearance at the country’s Parliament, Michel said, “On behalf of the federal government, I recognize the targeted segregation and policy of forced abductions of the métis during the colonial rule over Belgian Congo and Ruanda-Urundi,” referring to the countries by their colonial-era names.
Offering apologies to the children affected, he continued, “In the name of the federal government, I apologize to the métis from the period of Belgian colonization and to their families for the injustices and the suffering that they went through.”
Michel said the scandal “stripped” the children of their identity, and expressed regret for “African mothers whose children were snatched from them.”
Comments from Michel came weeks after the United Nations Working Group of Experts on People of African Descent released a report on the conditions within the country. “We urge the government to issue an apology for the atrocities committed during colonization,” the statement said.
“There is clear evidence that racial discrimination is endemic in institutions in Belgium. The root causes of present-day human rights violations lie in the lack of recognition of the true scope of violence and injustice of colonization.”
Belgium colonized Central African from the 1800’s to 1960. Children affected by the kidnappings were born in the “1940’s and 1950’s and taken to Belgium from 1959 until the independence of each of the three colonies,” the BBC reports.