Late yesterday, a Greek Roma (Gypsy) couple was formally arraigned on charges of abducting a girl who had been found living in their encampment.  

The couple, identified by the police as Christos Salis, 39, and Eleftheria Dimopoulou, 40, insisted during five hours of testimony that they adopted the child from a Bulgarian woman. Ms. Dimopoulou had a second identification card giving her name as Selini Sali with a different date and place of birth. They will stand trial on charges of abducting a minor and forging official documents.

The Greek police have appealed for Interpol’s help in tracing the girl’s biological parents. The girl, who has been nicknamed Maria and is thought to be about 5 or 6 years old, was spotted by the Greek police last Wednesday during a search for drugs and weapons at a Roma camp in Farsala, near the city of Larissa in central Greece.

After paternity tests conclusively proved the blonde, blue-green eyed girl wasn't biologically theirs, Salis and Dimopoulou didn't help their cause by giving any number of stories about how Maria ended up with them.  One of their initial claims was that they'd found her abandoned in a supermarket.  The story they're now sticking with is that her Bulgarian mother couldn't care for her, so they arranged an under-the-table adoption.  A whole lot about this couple simply doesn't add up.  They have 14 kids registered in different regions of Greece, and six of them were supposedly born within the last 10 months.  And it looks like more heads are about to roll--CNN reports that a police investigation is underway into how officials responsible for registering births let Maria slip through the cracks.

As ghastly as this story is, something just as outrageous is how this story seems to be being used to perpetrate longstanding stereotypes about Roma.  Until yesterday, when I first mentioned this, I had no idea how deep-seated this was.  But the stories that I've heard raise a particular nerve with me--all you have to do with some of them is replace "Roma" with
"black," and you have something similar to the stereotypes about black people here.  A particularly egregious example is in Slovakia, where Roma kids have to go to segregated schools.  I'm starting to see that it's somewhat unintentionally creeping into the coverage of this story.  As much as we're hearing about Maria--who is currently in a group home run by the Smile of the Child charity in Athens--there's almost no word at all about the other kids.  Since social workers told CNN that Salis and Dimopoulou were living in squalid conditions, you really have to wonder why we haven't heard more about the other children.

If these two did indeed abduct Maria, then they and everyone else involved in the human trafficking chain in which Maria somehow got ensnared need to have the library thrown at them.  But we can only hope that it doesn't further tar a people that seem to have been dragged through the dirt.

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