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Christina is the 4-year-old child found in a Roma family in Thessaloniki

13 November 2013 / 12:11:01  GRReporter
2919 reads

Anastasia Balezdrova

"The child found in a Roma family in Thessaloniki is 4 years old, her name is Christina and she has been with us for two weeks already, together with Maria and the other children," Kostas Giannopoulos, chairman of "The Smile of the Child" told GRReporter. He said that the organisation for child protection has been notified to take the child from the hospital to take care of her.

The new case which the police in Thessaloniki have revealed is very similar to that of Maria who was found in a Roma camp near Farsala, as reported by the Greek electronic edition The child was found during an inspection in the Civil Status Departments of the Greek municipalities carried out by order of the prosecutor of the Supreme Court. After the case of Maria, the prosecutor’s office has ordered the inspection of the birth certificates of children born between 2008 and 2013, which are based on the affidavit of the parents.

The inspection in Thessaloniki has established that a mother of Roma origin had declared the birth of a second child just six months after her previous birth. The police had immediately found the family in the region of Diavata neighbourhood in the western part of Thessaloniki. The results of the DNA testing show that the woman and her husband are not the biological parents of the 4-year-old girl.

The authorities apprehended the two alleged "parents" who are charged with child abduction to the degree of felony. According to sources, during the testimony, they said that a Roma family from Bulgaria had given the child to them, as they could not afford to raise her. A pre-trial file for the illegal reception of social assistance has been also prepared against the Roma from Thessaloniki.

The prosecutor's inspection carried out in the 47 Civil Status Departments in various municipalities in the region of Thessaloniki and in 3,000 folders of persons registered in the social services has detected another six suspicious cases, which the police authorities are already investigating.

Experts say that illegal adoption of children is a huge problem not only in Greece but also in Europe. Commenting on the situation, human rights organisations have criticized the media for presenting the cases of children of Roma origin in an almost clearly discriminative manner.

On the other hand, the media have criticised the organisation and the way in which Maria has been taken away from the only people whom she felt like family, and especially Kostas Giannopoulos’ statement that Maria was happy at "The Smile of the Child" centre.

He preferred to respond in the following way: "We apologize to all those who were saying that the child was looking for her parents. The medical staff and psychologists were close to Maria from the first moment and saw a child who was not looking for anyone and who was in contact with the people around her. We saw a child who was looking for the employees from the next shift because she was afraid that they would not return. That shows her need to be in a stable environment."

According to Kostas Giannopoulos, Maria is an independent child who dresses herself in the clothes she wants and eats whatever she wants. "No one can force her. All these children used to survive on their own and in a hard way. They are life fighters. The first things that drew her attention were toys and the contact with new people. Then she adapted. From the outset she wanted to get closer to the other children." He also noted that Maria communicates with the volunteers of the organisation in the Greek language although it is often necessary to use the help of people who speak Romani.

Giannopoulos added that the case for placing little Maria in custody is under consideration but it is not clear when the court order will be issued. According to the chairman of "The Smile of the Child", the steps in this procedure are the following: "The prosecution first investigates whether the child can be returned to the parents and then subsequently it considers the option of adopting the child, then of placing the child in an institution and then other options. This is the right way to proceed with all children, not just with Maria. The goal is not to hurt the child's soul more."

Sources cited by To Vima newspaper claim that all procedures in connection with Maria’s adoption or her sending into a foster family will take place in Greece, because the illegal activities were carried out in the country.

According to the non-governmental organisation "Arsis" in Thessaloniki, the majority of Roma in Greece do not register their children. "The problem is that no public institution deals with the problems of Roma children. It is not possible for a child to not go to school and to consider this normal, and it is not possible to do nothing about the acceptance of Roma children into the educational system," Nikos Gavalas, chairman of the organisation, told the Greek news agency AMNA.

With regard to Maria’s case, he stressed that the practice of raising the children of relatives is common for the Roma in Greece and Bulgaria.

Tags: ChristinaLittle MariaRoma familyIllegal adoptionsThe Smile of the ChildCustody
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