DNA tests confirm that a Bulgarian Roma, or Gypsy, couple living in an impoverished village with their nine other children are the biological parents of the girl named Maria found in Greece with another couple.
The Greek Roma couple has been charged with abducting the girl and committing document fraud. Under Greek law, child abduction charges can include cases where a minor is voluntarily given away by the parents.
Rebecca Cruise, the Assistant Dean of the University of Oklahoma's College of International Studies, calls the issue “a clear case of discrimination” against people of Roma descent.
“They're often thought of as thieves, as child traffickers,” Cruise says. “There was also a case last week in Ireland where a similar situation, a blonde-haired child was taken from parents. And they did DNA tests, and these were in fact her parents. She just looked somewhat different from them.”
The College’s Dean, Suzette Grillot, says the perception persists because Roma theft and illicit activities stem from their lack of integration into society.
“They are kept on the margins,” Grillot says. “It's not like they can go out and find normal jobs. It's a very difficult life that this population by-and-large leads in some way, and how people respect them. I think this whole story just kind of reflects that.”
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