This weekend saw publicity for Maria, a little gypsy child who can’t find her real family. Discovered during a police raid on the Greek town of Farsala, this beautiful little girl was living with a dark skinned family that looked so different that authorities were alerted. She was taken into custody, placed in the hands of a Greek charity, and the adventure has begun. Who is she?
So many children are abducted every year that the hearts of these traumatized families were given new hope. If Maria aged 5 or 6 could be discovered, then why not other children as well? But it is not likely that the story will provide a romantic and satisfying ending. We would love to hear that angelic little girls and boys, who have disappeared throughout the world, are all available and waiting to be returned home to their grief stricken parents. In fact the reality is that the prettiest and healthiest kids are taken as valuable contributors to the world of pickpocketing, begging, slavery and organ sales.
Pardalis Panagiotis works for the organization, The Smile of the Child, that is caring for little Maria. He went on record saying there have been many interesting enquiries about her identity. Acknowledging that the little girl was likely used as a beggar for the Roma family who has housed her, there is much enthusiasm to find her a better home. It is hoped that a solution is found but it is unlikely.
The adults who were charged with abduction, Christos Salis, 39, and Eleftheria Dimopoulou, 40, today denied child abduction charges when they went in front of an investigating judge. They accepted that the adoption was illegal but claimed the child was unwanted by her biological parents.
One version suggests that a poor Bulgarian family who were travelling through Greece and needed a place to leave the youngster, made an arrangement with the Farsala family. There are more than 600,000 Roma gypsies living in Greece, and a third of that amount in Bulgaria. Perhaps, in return for government subsidies, little Maria was unofficially boarded with this gypsy family because her nomadic parents couldn’t find work and had to return to their homeland. Given that the Greek government provides child support, it is not surprising that the child was taken in. Records show that the “adoptive” family had registered for sixteen children but this was clearly untrue. The town of Farsala may have little to offer but the inhabitants are fully aware of the available government stipends. Maria was
At the same time, the Greek investigative program, Light in the Tunnel, interviewed a man called Kostas. He claimed to be a relative of the supposed kidnappers. He claimed the child had been sold by a Roma couple from a town only 20 miles from Farsala. The town of Sofades was said to be the birth mother’s home and the baby was sold when only a few days old. Kostas said, “We got this girl in a very nice way.” DNA testing was reputedly used to determine that Maria had no biological connection to the married couple who were looking after her. Subsequent tests have not provided answers and it is unlikely that they will.
The abduction and illegal adoption of babies and children is a world problem which has existed since records were kept and even before. Last week a British government report on child trafficking was released. The report noted that 371 children were discovered in the last year in the UK, all abducted by human traffickers who sold the children as slave labor and sex slaves.
The report documented the discovery of a young Somali girl who was brought into England so that her organs could be harvested. The demand for organs is high as traffickers are greedy to capitalize on the rewards. The World Health Organization numbered the amount of illegal kidney transplants worldwide at 7,000. Given that the removal of a kidney does not result in death, this is the most trafficked organ.
Was Maria being held illegally for the purpose of selling her at a later date? Or was she the product of her circumstances? Roma people are disliked by the populations of the European countries where they live. Social programs aimed at better integration to society have been largely unsuccessful. Numbering more than 2 million, they are a population that suffers from social stigma. Amnesty International has reported on the “discrimination, poverty and exclusion” of Romani communities. Based on numerous cases of violence, immorality, lack of education, child marriage and more, the publicity of this case will bring more judgment against the communities of Europe.
Little Maria is a gypsy child who cannot find her real family and may never. Perhaps she will be adopted and will start her life anew. Perhaps she will be returned to the impoverished life that she has been living.
By Vicky Judah