According to legal documents, in all five cases the fathers did not exercise parental authority and the Belgian administration threatened the children’s Congolese families with reprisals if they refused to let them go.
Time has passed since the five women were forced to cut ties with their relatives, but the trauma they went through has never been fully addressed, and their pain remains immense. None of them have ever received psychological assistance.
“When we talk about it, we cry,” Noelle Verbeeken, one of the five plaintiffs, told the AP on the outskirts of Brussels.
“We have no identity. We don’t know where we come from. … We are nothing. Just the ‘children of sin,'” Verbeeken said, quoting the expression used to describe the children when they arrived at the religious mission in the Congolese town of Katende. There, Tavares Mujinga was reunited with her older brother, who had been seized a few years earlier.
The women lived in the mission with 20 other biracial children and Black orphans in very harsh conditions. Bitu Bingi recalls that food was scarce, and rare were the days when she could properly wash.
“We did not know how chicken tasted. And one of the doors of our dormitory was overlooking the morgue,” she said.
The girls did receive an education. Tavares Mujinga, who went on to marry a Belgian airplane pilot, became a primary teacher while Verbeeken studied Greek humanities and became a nurse.