News / Europe

Plight Of ‘Maria’ Puts Spotlight on Roma In Europe

Plight Of Blonde ‘Maria’ Puts Spotlight on Roma in Europei
X
October 29, 2013 10:15 PM
A little blonde girl in Greece is at the center of a Europe-wide controversy over the treatment of Roma people - sometimes known as "gypsies." The girl, named Maria, was taken into care from a Roma community over fears she had been abducted. But it appears authorities may have gotten it wrong. As Henry Ridgwell reports for VOA from Rome, which has a big Roma population, there have been allegations of human rights abuses against Roma people across Europe.
Henry Ridgwell
A four-year-old girl, found living with a Roma couple in central Greece, is seen in a handout photo distributed by the Greek police and obtained by Reuters, Oct. 18, 2013.A four-year-old girl, found living with a Roma couple in central Greece, is seen in a handout photo distributed by the Greek police and obtained by Reuters, Oct. 18, 2013.
x
A four-year-old girl, found living with a Roma couple in central Greece, is seen in a handout photo distributed by the Greek police and obtained by Reuters, Oct. 18, 2013.
A four-year-old girl, found living with a Roma couple in central Greece, is seen in a handout photo distributed by the Greek police and obtained by Reuters, Oct. 18, 2013.
A little blonde girl in Greece is at the center of a Europe-wide row over the treatment of Roma people  - sometimes known as "gypsies."  The girl, named Maria, was taken into care from a Roma community over fears she had been abducted. But it appears authorities may have gotten it wrong. In Rome, which has a big Roma population, there have been allegations of human rights abuses against Roma people across Europe.

When police raided a Roma camp in central Greece two weeks ago in search of drugs and weapons, they spotted a little blonde girl who looked nothing like her dark-haired parents or siblings.

DNA tests revealed the couple caring for her were not her real parents. They were charged with child abduction. But they insist Maria was given to them.

The children of Roma woman Sasha Ruseva (not pictured) rest inside their home in Nikolaevo, southern Bulgaria, Oct. 24, 2013. Ruseva is believed to have given birth to the girl named Maria, found by police in a Roma settlement in Greece on Oct. 16.The children of Roma woman Sasha Ruseva (not pictured) rest inside their home in Nikolaevo, southern Bulgaria, Oct. 24, 2013. Ruseva is believed to have given birth to the girl named Maria, found by police in a Roma settlement in Greece on Oct. 16.
x
The children of Roma woman Sasha Ruseva (not pictured) rest inside their home in Nikolaevo, southern Bulgaria, Oct. 24, 2013. Ruseva is believed to have given birth to the girl named Maria, found by police in a Roma settlement in Greece on Oct. 16.
The children of Roma woman Sasha Ruseva (not pictured) rest inside their home in Nikolaevo, southern Bulgaria, Oct. 24, 2013. Ruseva is believed to have given birth to the girl named Maria, found by police in a Roma settlement in Greece on Oct. 16.
Maria’s real mother has now been found in Bulgaria - and she says she did give the child away in 2009 because she could not care for her. Police are investigating whether she was sold for money.

The lawyer for the Roma couple, Marietta Palavara, condemned the actions of the authorities.

“[E]veryone who is involved in this very serious issue must think about the fact that Maria grew up with these people, and that there is only a relationship of love between them," said Marietta Palavara.

There was speculation in the European media that Maria may have been stolen. Riccardo Noury of Amnesty International in Italy condemns the press coverage.

“It’s a very stereotyped way of depicting Roma communities all over Europe - here in Italy especially, and in Greece - as people who steal babies, people who don’t want to educate their children,” he said.

Charalambos Dimitriou, president of the Roma camp in Farsala where Maria was found, says the community feels unfairly targeted.

He said the entire community, all of Farsala, has cried for Maria, because she was always here around us. She was not locked in some basement, as some media were saying, he added.

In the days following the case in Greece, authorities in Ireland mistakenly removed two girls from Roma communities there, over concerns they may have been abducted.

In France earlier this month, 15-year-old Leonarda Dibrani was pulled off a school bus by police in front of other students, to be deported back to Kosovo.

The action triggered violent protests. French authorities insist Dibrani’s family had exhausted the asylum process.

Roma support groups accuse European governments of trying to appease the far right.

Riccardo Noury of Amnesty International Italy says, "They are victims of violent attacks by private groups. They are victims of human rights violations by law. In France or Italy or in other parts of Europe, they suffer from forced evictions based on the assumption that they are nomads.”

In Greece, meanwhile, the lawyer for the detained Roma couple is appealing for their release, and for Maria to be returned to their care. Greek authorities insist they have always acted in the best interests of Maria.

You May Like

Australia-Cambodia Resettlement Agreement Raises Concerns

Agreement calls for Cambodia to accept refugees in return for $35 million in aid and reflects Australia’s harder line approach towards asylum seekers and refugees More

India Looks to Become Arms Supplier Instead of Buyer

US hopes India can become alternative to China for countries looking to buy weapons, but experts question growth potential of Indian arms industry More

Earth Day Concert, Rally Draws Thousands in Washington

President Obama also took up the issue Saturday in his weekly address, saying there 'no greater threat to our planet than climate change' More

Featured Videos

Your JavaScript is turned off or you have an old version of Adobe's Flash Player. Get the latest Flash player.
Are Energy Needs Putting Thailand's Natural Beauty at Risk?i
X
Steve Sandford
April 17, 2015 12:50 AM
Thailand's appetite for more electricity has led to the construction of new dams along the Mekong River to the north and new coal plants near the country's famous beaches in the south. A proposed coal plant in a so-called "green zone" has touched off a debate. VOA's Steve Sandford reports.
Video

Video Are Energy Needs Putting Thailand's Natural Beauty at Risk?

Thailand's appetite for more electricity has led to the construction of new dams along the Mekong River to the north and new coal plants near the country's famous beaches in the south. A proposed coal plant in a so-called "green zone" has touched off a debate. VOA's Steve Sandford reports.
Video

Video Overwhelmed by Migrants, Italy Mulls Military Action to Stabilize Libya

Thousands more migrants have arrived on the southern shores of Italy from North Africa in the past two days. Authorities say they expect the total number of arrivals this year to far exceed previous levels, and the government has said military action in Libya might be necessary to stem the flow. VOA's Henry Ridgwell reports.
Video

Video Putin Accuses Kyiv of ‘Cutting Off’ Eastern Ukraine

Russian President Vladimir Putin, in his annual televised call-in program, again denied there were any Russian troops fighting in Ukraine. He also said the West was trying to ‘contain’ Russia with sanctions. Henry Ridgwell reports on reactions to the president’s four-hour TV appearance.
Video

Video Eye Contact Secures Dog's Place in Human Heart

Dogs serve in the military, work with police and assist the disabled, and have been by our side for thousands of years serving as companions and loyal friends. We love them. They love us in return. VOA’s Rosanne Skirble reports on a new study that looks at the bio-chemical bond that cements that human-canine connection.
Video

Video Ukrainian Volunteers Search for Bodies of Missing Soldiers

As the cease-fire becomes more fragile in eastern Ukraine, a team of volunteer body collectors travels to the small village of Savur Mohyla in the what pro-Russian separatists call the Donetsk Peoples Republic - to retrieve bodies of fallen Ukrainian servicemen from rebel-held territories. Adam Bailes traveled with the team and has this report.
Video

Video Xenophobic Violence Sweeps South Africa

South Africa, long a haven for African immigrants, has been experiencing the worst xenophobic violence in years, with at least five people killed and hundreds displaced in recent weeks. From Johannesburg, VOA’s Anita Powell brings us this report.
Video

Video Sierra Leone President Koroma Bemoans Ebola Impact on Economy

In an interview with VOA's Shaka Ssali on Wednesday, President Ernest Koroma said the outbreak undermined his government’s efforts to boost and restructure the economy after years of civil war.
Video

Video Protester Lands Gyrocopter on Capitol Lawn

A 61-year-old mailman from Florida landed a small aircraft on the Capitol lawn in Washington to bring attention to campaign finance reform and what he says is government corruption. Wednesday's incident was one in a string of security breaches on U.S. government property. Zlatica Hoke reports the gyrocopter landing violated a no-fly zone.
Video

Video Apollo 13, NASA's 'Successful Failure,' Remembered

The Apollo 13 mission in 1970 was supposed to be NASA's third manned trip to the moon, but it became much more. On the flight's 45th anniversary, astronauts and flight directors gathered at Chicago's Adler Planetarium to talk about how the aborted mission changed manned spaceflight and continues to influence space exploration today. VOA’s Kane Farabaugh reports.
Video

Video Badly Burned Ukrainian Boy Bravely Fights Back

A 9-year-old Ukrainian boy has returned to his native country after intensive treatment in the United States for life-threatening burns. Volodia Bubela, burned in a house fire almost a year ago, battled back at a Boston hospital, impressing doctors with his bravery. Faith Lapidus narrates this report from VOA's Tetiana Kharchenko.
Video

Video US Maternity Leave Benefits Much Less Than Many Countries

It was almost 20 years ago that representatives of 189 countries met at a UN conference in Beijing and adopted a plan of action to achieve gender equality around the world. Now, two decades later, the University of California Los Angeles World Policy Analysis Center has issued a report examining what the Beijing Platform for Action has achieved. From Los Angeles, Elizabeth Lee has more.
Video

Video Endangered Hawaiian Birds Get Second Chance

Of the world's nearly 9,900 bird species, 13 percent are threatened with extinction, according to BirdLife International. Among them are two Hawaiian honeycreepers - tiny birds that live in the forest canopy, and, as the name implies, survive on nectar from tropical flowers. Scientists at the San Diego Zoo report they have managed to hatch half a dozen of their chicks in captivity, raising hopes that the birds will flutter back from the brink of extinction. VOA’s George Putic reports.
Video

Video Exhibit Brings Renaissance Master Out of the Shadows

The National Gallery of Art in Washington has raised the curtain on one of the most intriguing painters of the High Renaissance. Mostly ignored after his death in the early 1500s, Italian master Piero di Cosimo is now claiming his place alongside the best-known artists of the period. VOA’s Ardita Dunellari reports.
Video

Video Sidemen to Famous Blues Artists Record Their Own CD

Legendary blues singer BB King was briefly hospitalized last week and the 87-year-old “King of the Blues” may not be touring much anymore. But some of the musicians who have played with him and other blues legends have now released their own CD in an attempt to pass the torch to younger fans... and put their own talents out front as well. VOA’s Greg Flakus has followed this project over the past year and filed this report from Houston.
Video

Video Iran-Saudi Rivalry Is Stoking Conflict in Yemen

Iran has proposed a peace plan to end the conflict in Yemen, but the idea has received little support from regional rivals like Saudi Arabia. They accuse Tehran of backing the Houthi rebels, who have forced Yemen’s president to flee to Riyadh, and have taken over swaths of Yemen. As Henry Ridgwell reports for VOA, analysts say the conflict is being fueled by the Sunni-Shia rivalry between the two regional powers.

VOA Blogs