Belgian Prime Minister Charles Michel has apologized for the kidnapping of thousands of children born to mixed-race couples during colonial rule in 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 the paternity of their children.
The children were born in the 1940s and 1950s and taken to Belgium from 1959 until the independence of each of the three colonies.
Some of the children never received Belgian nationality and remained stateless.
Speaking in the Belgian parliament, Mr 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.
He said his apology to the kidnapped mixed-race children must also strengthen efforts to fight all forms of discrimination and racism in the country.