Belgium to apologize for forced kidnapping of mixed-race children from African colonies

Belgium’s prime minister is set to apologize Thursday for the kidnapping and forced adoption of thousands of children from former Belgian colonies in Central Africa decades ago.

Prime Minister Charles Michel will make the apology on behalf of the state in remarks to Parliament, according to The New York Times.

The apology would be Belgium’s first recognition of responsibility for harm inflicted on the children of Burundi, Congo and Rwanda, according to the Times. It comes nearly 60 years after those nations became independent following decades of Belgian colonial rule.

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Michel’s apology will reportedly address an estimated 20,000 children born to Belgian settlers and local women during colonial rule who were kidnapped from their mothers and forcibly taken to Belgium in the late 1950s.

The “métis” children were not given Belgian nationality, and remained stateless. The Catholic Church apologized two years ago for its role in bringing the children to Belgium, according to The Guardian.

The apology follows a measure passed by Belgian lawmakers last year urging the government to open its colonial archives and help the métis children, now in their 60s and 70s, track down their official birth documents and trace their family histories.