Abused foster children: Europe calls for compensation to be paid to victims

26 January 2024

The Council of Europe called on Friday for the establishment of official reparation measures for the millions of children in care who are victims of violence in Europe


“I survived but many children died”: whether they attended Romanian orphanages or Portuguese Catholic schools, mistreated children in Europe must benefit from official reparation measures, the Council of Europe argued on Friday.

In a resolution, the Parliamentary Assembly of the Council of Europe (PACE) considers that the 46 member states of the institution - whose main mission is the defense of human rights - must shed light on the acts of child abuse, whether physical, psychological or sexual violence.

It recommends that each country take stock of this violence, recognize the suffering suffered, present an official apology and compensate the victims.

The Assembly also calls for supporting the creation of places of memory.


“Many children died”

“We must sweep our own door,” argued the Swiss Pierre-Alain Fridez (socialist), author of a report on the subject debated and adopted on Friday. He emphasizes that in Europe, “18 million children are victims of sexual abuse, 44 million of physical violence and 55 million of psychological violence. The most serious cases have occurred and continue to occur within public and religious institutions.”

Sirmananca Beladi, 38, lived in an orphanage in Romania, Cighid, from the age of 3 to 16.

“I experienced terrible things. I survived but many children died,” she testified to the press. “We, the survivors of that era, have been let down. We don't talk about what happened to us..."

“I hope that Romania will now react, that political leaders will understand that they must do something for us survivors and for today's children,” said this mother.

Some 15,000 children died in 26 “hospital homes” in Romania according to the Institute for Research on the Crimes of Communism.


In his report, Pierre-Alain Fridez also cites the 2,000 Reunion Islanders taken from their parents and forcibly transferred to France, particularly in Creuse, between 1962 and 1984, or even the victims of physical and psychological violence in homes " mother-child” in Ireland.

“Child abuse, past or present, and the lack of historical perspective on the matter are a pan-European problem,” he emphasizes.

Very moved, Antonio, a 71-year-old Portuguese man, spoke of the sexual assaults he suffered in two Catholic institutions in his country, when he was between 10 and 12 years old.

A “wall of silence”

“Like thousands of children, the abuse I suffered caused heavy feelings of guilt, anger and fear in me, which lasted for many years,” he testified, hoping that the “ wall of silence” collapses.

“I often felt alone, misunderstood and without support,” Franscisco Javier also said. In tears, this Spaniard recalled the memory of "Emiliano and my twin brother who suffered, like me, sexual violence in their childhood, who fought for it and who left before their time and to whom no one will not be able to recognize their truth or return their stolen dignity.”

If victims of violence in institutions are not always recognized and compensated for their damage in their country, the rapporteur highlighted Switzerland which “is a model in Europe”, with the formulation of public apologies and the vote of a law, which entered into force in 2017, which provides for the payment of a solidarity contribution for each victim abused in childhood.


At the origin of the popular initiative which resulted in this law, Swiss millionaire Guido Fluri stressed that it had enabled more than 12,000 victims to receive compensation. “What we have achieved in Switzerland, we want to achieve in Europe,” he declared, welcoming Friday’s vote which marks a “great day”.

“We are only at the beginning of the process and the road will be difficult but it will be worth it.”