A seven-year-old girl who was removed from her parents' home in a Dublin suburb was returned on Wednesday after DNA tests revealed that despite her "white" appearance, she was, in fact, the biological daughter of her Roma parents. If this story sounds familiar, it's because European authorities have taken two blond-haired, blue-eyed girls from their Roma homes in the past month on suspicions that they might have been kidnapped. Those suspicions are seemingly based on nothing more than the fact that Roma complexions are usually darker and their "white" children look out of place.
The implication, that the parents "abducted" the child, hits on a long-running stereotype against Roma people (otherwise known as "gypsies,"): That the ethnic minority routinely "snatches" white children from their homes. A recent story out of Greece has only reinforced those fears.
In Ireland, the unidentified girl was taken into police custody based off of a tip on Facebook forwarded to police, according to The Daily Beast. When the family did not produce documents satisfying Irish Garda Siochana authorities that the child was theirs, she was taken from them. One of the family's neighbors drew attention to them after seeing a report on the case of Maria (pictured at right), a young, blonde girl found living in Greece with a Roma family. That story has gained international, sometimes sensational, coverage — Greek media are referring to her as the "blond angel."
Maria was taken by authorities after a raid on a Roma camp, more or less because she didn't look like the couple caring for her, who had no proof she was legally their child. In this case, the Roma couple are not biologically related to the girl, but they claim they informally adopted her from her biological mother, a sex worker in Bulgaria. Authorities have not confirmed the veracity of that story, and are looking for a possible match between Maria and missing child cases from around the world, including at least one in the United States. Maria's DNA doesn't match up to any case in Interpol's international database of missing children. Meanwhile, the Roma couple have been charged with abduction and authorities are investigating her possible connection to a handful of missing children.
There are about 12 million Romas in Europe, where have lived as an ethnic minority since about the 13th century. Often referred to derisively as gypsies, they've long been the subject of stereotyping across Europe, but the recent series of cases about Roma populations have drawn the communities into the spotlight and seemed to conform to the worst ideas about them. In France, the country's Minister of the Interior started a nationwide debate over the relatively small Roma population there with a series of prejudiced, seemingly unprompted statements calling for the expulsion of French Roma from the country. Soon after that, French authorities ordered a 15-year-old Roma girl off of a school bus so that she and her family could be deported to Kosovo after living for years in France seeking asylum. (France has since said that the girl can come back to attend school, only without her family.) There was also a third case of officials taking a child from a Roma family, also in Ireland. As the Daily Beast reports, a 2-year-old boy was removed from (and later returned to) his home on Tuesday for reasons that weren't specified.
(Photo: Maria, who was taken from a Greek Roma community earlier this month. Credit: Reuters)