A girl was taken from her parents after questions were asked about her relation to the couple during an investigation into a Roma site. DNA tests proved she was not related to the couple, and a search was made to find her real parents. Alex Davies takes a closer look into the stories of missing children in Roma communities.
"There's real life for you, embodied in that little cart. The open road, the dusty highway, the heath, the common, the hedgerows, the rolling downs… Here to-day, up and off to somewhere else to-morrow!”’
So says Mr Toad in Kenneth Grahame’s “Wind in the Willows”. The idea of a life as a traveller was an appealing one; but in modern times, the concept is more difficult than it sounds. Gypsy’s and Roma communities suffer a high level of abuse compared to many, similar targets: and worse, many believe that it is justified.
The Roma potentially originated from India, and migrated to Europe around the 13th century. They have been persecuted many times over the years- notably by the Nazi’s during the Holocaust who attempted genocide of their people. Recently, acts of persecution have sprung up throughout Europe, including attempts at forced sterilization of Roma women in the Czech region all the way up to 2001, the forced repatriation of tens of thousands of Roma in France since 2010, and even the taking of children from Roma families within England, as detailed by a Slovak TV report from August 2012.
Now, though, the tensions may be about to boil over, thanks to incidents throughout Europe.
In Greece, a girl was taken from her parents after questions were asked about her relation to the couple during an investigation into a Roma site. DNA tests proved she was not related to the couple, and a search was made to find her real parents. These were discovered to be another Roma couple living in Bulgaria, who insists that the child was legitimately given to the Greeks due to the mother being unable to sustain another child. However, Greece could still take the child from the couple permanently- despite protests from the families involved. Another young adult has been identified as possibly being the missing British child Ben Needham, kidnapped in 1991. DNA results are currently pending.
Meanwhile, two children in Ireland were taken from their families soon after, only for their DNA results to match those of their parents. The Irish Garda has been accused of reacting due to hysteria more than actual evidence, despite statements to the contrary from the Irish minister for justice, Alan Shatter.
Finally, there is the issue of the removal of a Roma family in France, where a young girl was taken from her school bus in front of her terrified school mates. The government has been heavily criticised for their actions, and Francis Hollande’s attempts to solve the problem- Offering the girl the chance to return alone for her studies- has been rejected by almost everyone involved. This has highlighted issues within France concerning the far right wing’s surprising successes over the past few days, and potential weaknesses in Hollande’s position- almost enough to overshadow the issue of how horrifically this repatriation was undertaken. The parents of the child have since been attacked by others in their community in Kosovo.
Manuel Valls, a popular French minister, has justified the expulsion of the Roma people by stating “The majority [of Roma] should be delivered back to the borders. We are not here to welcome these people.” While it is true that there are issues with having a roaming community in today’s world of private property, and with increasing crime in areas where Roma’s are visiting, this cannot be justified. People like Valls are only making the problem worse, and it is surprising that such a supposedly competent minister would make such an idiotic remark. Whatever the differences between our culture and theirs, we should endeavour to help all members of our society fit in. To do otherwise is to admit, unfairly, that the so called civilized world is based on racist values.