October 21st, 2014

Roma family await decision on 'daughter'

Concerned members of the girl's family
Concerned members of the girl's family

A Roma family in Ireland who had a blonde, blue-eyed girl removed from them over concerns she was not theirs expects to hear today if she will be returned.

The seven-year-old was put into care on Monday when a member of the public reported the youngster was living with the family in a house in a south Dublin suburb.

No arrests have been made and family members are not facing an allegation of abduction.

It is understood gardai sought to have DNA tests carried out on the child to confirm she was the daughter of a Roma couple.

The Health Service Executive (HSE) had been seeking an emergency order to place the child in care under section 13 of the Child Care Act 1991 after being called in by gardai.

Members of a group of about 15 friends and relations from the Roma community said they were upset and claimed that the girl was part of the family and should be returned as the family has documentary proof on paper.

Some claimed "everything is OK" and that "the child is coming back".

Others said the girl - who was physically well - was not the only member of the family with blonde hair.

The initial action to seek a care order was taken after gardai believed the family was unable to prove the girl's identity conclusively.

A number of other children, believed to be the girl's siblings, were in the house at the time and not taken into care.

A couple who claim they are the girl's parents said she was born in the Coombe Hospital in Dublin in April 2006 and is their daughter.

Officers spent several hours at the Dublin property on Monday after asking for the family to produce documents to confirm the child is theirs.

It is understood a name and date of birth the parents gave does not match records with the register office.

A birth certificate was deemed to be inconclusive and a passport bore a picture of a baby and could not be matched to the seven-year-old.

Unlike the case in Greece where a girl, known as Maria, was found in a settlement near Farsala, DNA tests have yet to be carried out.

The only similarity between the stories is that the girls are blonde-haired and blue-eyed and had a different appearance from that of the couple they were found living with.

In the Greek case, a DNA test on Maria proved she was not related to Christos Salis, 39, and Eleftheria Dimopoulou, 40, and the couple have been held on charges of abduction and document fraud.

Pavee Point, a rights groups that works on behalf of Irish travellers and the Roma community, called for the girl's case to be investigated swiftly.

"Pavee Point are concerned about witch-hunts against a vulnerable community and old stereotypes of an entire community being propagated in the media coverage of this development," a spokesman said.

"Actions by the state need to be evidence based and due process needs to be accorded to all communities living in Ireland.

"There is a real danger that precipitative action, undertaken on the basis of appearance, can create the conditions for an increase in racism and discrimination against the Roma community living here."

Pavee Point said Roma children were grossly overrepresented in state care institutions in Europe and the main underlying reasons are poverty and discrimination.

Europol and Interpol have been contacted about missing children while investigations continue to confirm the girl's identity.