Solidarity 301 (25 October) reported on the case of Maria, the “unusual” girl found living in a Roma community in Greece and removed from her family.
Fanned by racist outcries from the media, Maria was quickly proclaimed to probably be of Northern or Eastern European origin and in all likelihood trafficked, all based on her physical appearance.
The reason the Greek authorities gave for their suspicions about her origin was the inability of the family to produce documents for Maria. Solidarity rightly pointed out at the time that many Roma travel and live without documents, often unable to obtain them, and fear reprisals because of this.
Shortly after Solidarity went to press with the article about Maria, it emerged that Maria’s biological mother was a Roma woman in Bulgaria. Sasha Ruseva, Maria’s biological mother, said that Maria was born in Greece.
However when Ms Ruseva needed to return to Bulgaria to look after her other children she was not able to take Maria with her because she did not have the necessary papers. Ms Ruseva is now defending herself against claims that she sold Maria to the family in Greece.
I find this very disturbing, firstly it continues to show a complete lack of respect for Ms Ruseva and the family Maria was living with in Greece, but it also says nothing about the conditions that might have led Ms Ruseva into “selling” Maria if she did.
Any multitude of complex issues and thought processes going on, the one that is being ignored completely is what Ms Ruseva was thinking was best for her child.
Through all of this, Maria is still being looked after by a charity in Greece. This must be a terrifying and confusing situation for a four year old child. It is not hard to see that as Maria has lived with the family in Greece since she was seven months old she will have made bonds with them.
No evidence has yet been put forward to suggest that Maria was mistreated by the family in Greece, and nobody seems to be talking about how Maria feels and thinks about her families.
Predictably shortly after the case of Maria, stimulated by a by no rabid press interest in “unusual children” in Roma communities, several other cases of “unusual” children came to light.
An anonymous message to a TV channel in Ireland about “fair haired and blue eyed” children in Roma families in Dublin.
Shockingly quickly both children were removed from their families, seemingly the only evidence for a reason for doing this was a lack of documentation at the hospital where one of the children was born.
Both of these cases were unfounded, and both children returned. However the effect on the families will have been significant, one family was quoted as feeling like they were “treated like savages”. Again, as in the case of Maria, the primary concern of anyone working with children, that of the threat to the child’s health and well-being, was not taken into account.
We must not allow racist ideas about Roma to be whipped up, certainly not under the guise of protecting children.