11th Jul 2020

Roma fears heighten after child abduction reports

  • Roma families are afraid police will take their children (Photo: Council of Europe)

Reports of child abductions by Roma in Greece and Ireland is causing anxiety about a vigilante backlash against Europe’s most discriminated minority.

Dezideriu Gergely, executive director of the Budapest-based European Roma Rights Centre, told this website on Friday (25 October) that a far-right group in Serbia tried to take the law into its own hands in the past few days.

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“During the weekend, there was an attempt by skinheads in Serbia to enter into a Roma community and take a child which had whiter skin than the family,” he said.

The Roma couple did not hand over the child, despite the threats.

Gergely pointed out that some couples have mixed families with children of differing skin colours and complexions.

The Serb case is said to stem from negative media reports after a couple in Greece allegedly abducted a girl thought to be between the age of five or six.

Greek police on Monday had the couple arrested after DNA checks confirmed the child was not their biological daughter. The girl's biological mother is Bulgarian. The mother said she gave the jailed couple the child because of poverty, reports BBC.

Authorities in Ireland this week removed two blond children from two different families with darker skin complexions.

A two-year old boy and a seven-year old girl were later returned after DNA checks confirmed their biological links with the distraught parents.

“There is a fear and anxiety whether the police will come, whether the state authorities will come, and check anyone and look at their children,” said Gergely of the two cases in Ireland.

Alan Shatter, Ireland’s minister of interior, on Thursday said Gardai, Ireland’s organised crime unit group, and Ireland’s Health Service, would be investigated for their conduct after taking the children.

He said a report would be due out within two weeks time.

Shatter told RTE’s Morning Ireland the case in Greece might have influenced the Irish authorities to take the children because their skin colour is lighter than their parents.

Dublin-based Roma-rights group Pavee Point has requested an independent inquiry.

“We are concerned that these type of incidents will fuel racism against Roma,” said the NGO on their website.

Pavee Point has questioned the motives of the authorities.

But in Italy, the far-right Northern League party has also jumped on the anti-Roma bandwagon.

Italian media report that MP Gianluca Buonanno, a Northern League politician, submitted a request to the Italian ministry of interior to verify the identities of children in all local Roma communities.

“In many instances, we have reminded politicians not to scapegoat a population because extremists will see it as a green light,” said a contact at the human rights watchdog, the Council of Europe in Strasbourg.

Last week, the Il Mattino newspaper, reported that a baby in the arms of a Roma woman in Naples suffered injuries from an apparent acid attack.

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