European panic over "white" children in Romani families
Fair-skinned children in Romani families have recently been taken into temporary care by authorities in Greek and Ireland and have been threatened with such removal by members of the public in Serbia. The mention of the family's Romani ethnicity in the reporting on the Greek case has resulted in a frenzy of international media coverage.
Martin Collins, who assists the Romani and Traveller community in Ireland, reports that the fair-skinned children targeted by child welfare authorities there were literally "abducted from their families" by representatives of the state. "I hope this is not the start of some pattern of behavior in which Romani children who are not dark-skinned and don't have brown eyes are taken away from families one after another and only returned once DNA tests prove their biological connections. This is disgraceful. It's disgusting," Collins said.
Journalist Jake Bowers: Roma are considered guilty until proven innocent
Journalist Jake Bowers, who is himself Romani, said in an interview for the BBC that he was very surprised by the way in which the media have reported the discovery of a blonde girl living with a Romani family in Greece. "It's astounding the way that this story has been reported, the shock and horror that a blond child has been found within a Romani community. It's amazing. I'm blond, I'm blue-eyed, I'm from the Roma community. The shock and horror that there is in the media is that this child, a blond child, is being raised in a poverty-stricken, destitute environment, but there is no shock or horror about the fact that millions of Romani children across Europe live in ghettos far below the European poverty line. That receives no media coverage at all," Bowers said.
"The idea that we would steal a child, abduct a child, is a very old myth. My big fear is that people will hear this and that it is yet another stereotype the Romani people will now be beaten with. We are judged to be guilty until proven innocent, so it's very easy to get to that stereotype, that very ancient fear of Romani people stealing children," Bowers said, adding that in the case of the blonde girl in Greece it is for the court to decide what will become of her.
"These parents came across a situation where this child was in need, and from all the proof that we've seen, through family videos and things like that, they seem to have raised this child very well and kept that child at the heart of a very close-knit community, yet they are given no credit for that. The immediate instinct is that these people are thieves and they've stolen a child," Bowers told the BBC.
Investigation into the case of the blonde girl in Greece continues
The little blonde girl found living with the Romani couple last week in central Greece is not one of the 610 missing children Interpol is currently looking for. The Greek Police are reviewing dozens of cases of child disappearances in at least four countries from where the child might originate, such as France, Poland, Sweden and the USA.
Detectives are reportedly now working on the hypothesis that the child called Maria might have been given to the Romani couple after Greek authorities busted child trafficking networks in 2008 and again in 2010. The network involved Bulgarian citizens in particular who traveled to Greece with the aim of selling young children for adoption.
The Romani woman who has been caring for the child with her partner, both of whom are now in custody after being charged with kidnapping, claims the child's biological mother gave her to them. Allegedly the birth mother was unable to care for the child.
After the "Maria" affair came to light, the Greek state attorney has instructed that all birth certificates issued on or after 1 January 2008 be authenticated. Her instruction was a response to media reports that some families have been requesting multiple birth certificates for their children in various regions in order to draw welfare.
ERRC: Skinheads attempt to take a "white" boy away from his Romani parents in Serbia
The European Roma Rights Centre (ERRC) has called on the media to behave responsibly when reporting on the case in Greece because the full truth has yet to be ascertained. The ERRC knows of at least one report from Serbia of neo-Nazis attempting to take a two-year-old boy away from his Romani parents because he wasn't as "dark" as they are. (See http://www.romea.cz/en/news/world/serbia-skinheads-try-to-abduct-fair-skinned-child-from-romani-family)
"Irresponsible reporting can have negative, serious impacts on Romani families all over Europe," the ERRC said in a press release. "If a crime has been committed in Greece, which is still far from clear, the people who are suspected of having committed it should be treated as individuals, not as representatives of their ethnic group. Such a case could occur in any ethnic, national, racial or religious group. Crime is not related to ethnicity. We call on all local authorities, media outlets, and other involved parties to use restraint in these matters."
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