Last week, police raided a Roma (Gypsy) camp in search of illegal drugs and weapons. But they found something that may potentially be even more horrifying--a little girl named Maria who is very likely the victim of child trafficking. Now the Greek government is trying to find her parents
The girl answers to the name of Maria, is thought to be 4 years old, and is now being cared for by social services in Greece.This ghastly story aired on CBS This Morning earlier today. Watch here.
It was the girl's looks that were the first clue. She has blond hair and blue eyes, which alerted an official that she did not belong. She did not have the typical Gypsy dark hair and dark eyes.
DNA tests proved the girl did not come from the same family as the one she was living with and members of the group are now arguing the child had been "given" to the family for care and that she had been treated well.
Others have taken a dimmer view and believed that she was stolen for resale, or perhaps that she had some other value, such as a blonde child is good for street begging.
The man and woman with whom this girl was found are due to appear in court today on charges of child abduction. Their lawyer claims that the child was adopted, but "in a way non-legal." But according to the BBC, this is one of many claims the couple have made that just don't add up.
The couple had registered different numbers of children with different regional family registries.The couple and their neighbors say Maria was treated very well, and was doted on more than the couple's biological children. But according to Kostas Yannopoulos, who heads the charity caring for her, The Smile of the Child, Maria seemed frightened and neglected when she first arrived, but has become much more relaxed in the last week as her health has improved. Yannopooulos thinks the couple used Maria to beg in the streets. A spokesman for the charity told CNN that Maria was living in squalid conditions when they took her in.
The woman claimed to have given birth to six children within a 10-month period.
When questioned about how they came to have Maria, the couple gave "constantly changing claims," Thessalia Province Police Director Vassilis Halatsis said.
"The girl might have been abducted from a hospital, or given up by an unmarried mother," the officer said.
"So far we do not have a declared disappearance of a child of this age in Greece. Through Interpol, we will request assistance from the other European countries."
The girl looks like she's of northern or eastern European descent. According to the couple's lawyer, she's originally from Bulgaria. However, the Smile of the Child has gotten thousands of calls from around the world since posting a picture of her online, including at least four from the United States. Wherever this girl is originally from, hopefully she can be brought home safely. And if she was indeed kidnapped, hopefully they can find the scum who are ultimately responsible for taking her.
9:56 AM PT: Wow. It turns out that this story has been used to perpetrate longstanding stereotypes about the Roma. I have to admit, I had no idea that a longstanding stereotype about Roma was that they tended to steal babies. While the parents and anyone who helped kidnap this girl deserve to have the library thrown at them, the fact that this has been used to perpetrate racism is no less outrageous.