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

Video China Investigates Powerful Former Security Chief

Analysts say move by President Xi is an effort to win more party support, take step toward economic reforms, removing those who would stand in way of change More

South Africa Land Reforms Still Contentious 20 Years Later

Activists argue that the pace of land reform is slow and biased; legal experts question how some proposed reforms would be implemented More

In Vietnam, Religious Freedoms Violated, UN Finds

Beliefs reportedly prompt heavy surveillance, intimidation and travel restrictions More

Featured Videos

Your JavaScript is turned off or you have an old version of Adobe's Flash Player. Get the latest Flash player.
Gazans in Shelled School Sought Shelteri
X
Scott Bobb
July 30, 2014 8:16 PM
Israel's air and ground assault against Hamas-led fighters in Gaza has forced many Palestinians to flee their homes, seeking safety. But safe places are hard to find, as VOA’s Scott Bobb reports from Jabaliya.
Video

Video Gazans in Shelled School Sought Shelter

Israel's air and ground assault against Hamas-led fighters in Gaza has forced many Palestinians to flee their homes, seeking safety. But safe places are hard to find, as VOA’s Scott Bobb reports from Jabaliya.
Video

Video Rapid Spread of Ebola in West Africa Prompts Global Alert

Across West Africa, health officials are struggling to keep up with what the World Health Organization describes as the worst ebola outbreak on record. The virus has killed hundreds of people this year. U.S. President Barack Obama and other world leaders are watching the developments closely as they weigh what actions, if any, are needed to help contain the disease.
Video

Video Michelle Obama: Young Africans Need to Embrace Women's Rights

U.S. first lady Michelle Obama urged some of Africa's best and brightest to advocate for women's rights in their home countries. As VOA's Pam Dockins explains, Obama spoke to some 500 participants of the Young African Leaders Initiative, a six-week U.S.-based training and development program.
Video

Video Immigrant Influx on Texas Border Heats Up Political Debate

Immigrants from Central America continue to cross the U.S.-Mexico border in south Texas, seeking asylum in the United States, as officials grapple with ways to deal with the problem and provide shelter for thousands of minors among the illegal border crossers. As VOA's Greg Flakus reports from Houston, the issue is complicated by internal U.S. politics and U.S. relations with the troubled nations that immigrants are fleeing.
Video

Video Study: Latino Students Most Segregated in California

Even though legal school segregation ended in the United States 60 years ago, one study finds segregation still occurs in the U.S. based on income and race. The University of California Los Angeles Civil Rights Project finds that students in California are more segregated by race than ever before, especially Latinos. Elizabeth Lee reports for VOA from Los Angeles.
Video

Video Vietnamese Staging Chinese Product Boycott After Oil Rig Spat

China recently pulled an oil rig from an area of the disputed South China Sea that Vietnam also claims. Despite the action, the incident has had a lingering effect on consumers in Vietnam. VOA's Reasey Poch reports from Hanoi on an effort to boycott Chinese products.
Video

Video A Summer Camp for All the World

VIDEO: During workshops and social gatherings, the Global Youth Village summer camp encourages young people to cooperate and embrace their differences, while learning to communicate with people from other countries. VOA's Deborah Block has more.
Video

Video From Cantankerous Warlock to Incorruptible Priest, 'Harry Potter' Actor Embraces Diverse Roles

He’s perhaps best known as Mad Eye Moody, the whimsical wizard in the Harry Potter franchise. But character actor Brendan Gleeson's resume includes dozens of films, and he embraces all the characters he inhabits with equal passion. In an interview with VOA’s Penelope Poulou, Gleeson discussed his new drama "Calvary" and his secret to success.

AppleAndroid