Bulgaria insisting Romani girl be returned from Greece
The Bulgarian authorities are insisting on the return of the little blonde Romani girl named Maria whose parents left her in Greece with a different Romani family as an infant. Agence France-Presse reported the statement by the Bulgarian Government Agency for Child Protection today.
Should Greece decide to return the four-year-old to Bulgaria, the agency will place Maria in a children's shelter until a definitive solution is found as to who should have custody of her. Bulgarian authorities have begun negotiations with Greece in the past few days over whether Maria would be returned.
The decision is up to the Greek justice system, which has not yet expressed its view of the case. For the time being the only action taken has been to arrest the Romani couple with whom Maria was living and to charge them with kidnapping.
The biological parents of the girl, Atanas and Sasha Rusev, are also being prosecuted in Bulgaria on suspicion of child trafficking. They face up to six years in prison if convicted.
The Rusevs live in a Romani ghetto in the town of Nikolaevo in central Bulgaria and the Bulgarian press has reported that their living conditions are extremely destitute. They are caring for their seven other children in temporary dwellings where the children sleep on an earthen floor.
Under pressure from the media, local authorities are now attempting to ensure a more dignified life for all of the Rusev children. Agence France-Presse reports that if Maria were to return to Bulgaria, she would be placed in an orphanage until authorities decided her fate.
Maria could end up remaining in the orphanage until she is legally an adult, or she could be returned to her biological parents or to other relatives. The Bulgarian Interior Ministry has also begun a program for more thorough investigation of child trafficking cases.
NGOs believe that in 2012 alone, a total of 66 children were illegally trafficked out of Bulgaria. The majority of them were sold into neighboring Greece.
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