Belfast Telegraph

Sunday 31 August 2014

Roma family seek independent probe

The District Family Law Court where a case was heard to decide the future of the blonde-haired, blue-eyed seven year-old girl was taken from a Roma family

The Roma family of a blonde-haired, blue-eyed schoolgirl removed from them by Irish police have supported calls for an independent investigation after tests proved she is their daughter.

A lawyer said they believed the authorities had no proper basis for their action after the seven-year-old was taken into State care in Ireland for two nights. A member of the public raised concerns about her appearance compared to relatives in a south Dublin suburb.

DNA results tonight proved she belonged to her parents, who have maintained she was theirs since she was taken by authorities on Monday afternoon.

Lawyer for the family Waheed Mudah said: "They do not accept that this was any proper or sufficient basis to take their daughter away from them thereby causing her and them the upset which has been caused."

He said they were very conscious of the fact that this case has been linked with events in other countries which have nothing to do with them and that there has been a vast amount of publicity about their situation.

"They are also conscious that it will be difficult to try to return to normal life," he added.

"They believe that there are very serious questions arising about the procedures used in this case."

Despite the concerns, a 21-year-old sister of the child, who cannot be identified for legal reasons, said the family was very happy at her return.

"We will have a big party. We will have music, dancing, everything."

She said their mother had not eaten for three days because she was so distraught.

"Everyone was very sad," she added, supporting calls by human rights campaigners for an independent investigation into the cases.

Earlier a two-year-old boy who was removed from his family home in the midlands town of Athlone overnight was returned to his parents following inquiries by gardai.

A human rights group has called for an independent inquiry amid claims the two Roma children were "abducted" from their families by authorities.

Pavee Point fears there is hysteria after the case of a blonde-haired, blue-eyed girl named Maria who was found with a Roma family in Greece and accused gardai and health chiefs of racial profiling.

Action to seek a care order over the seven-year-old girl in Ireland was taken after gardai believed the family was unable to prove the girl's identity conclusively.

A couple saying they were the girl's parents said she was born in the Coombe Hospital in Dublin in April 2006 and is their daughter.

However officers removed the youngster after spending several hours at the Dublin property on Monday.

It is understood that a name and date of birth the parents gave did not match records with the register office and a passport bore a picture of a baby and could not be matched to the seven-year-old.

A number of other children, believed to be the girl's siblings, who were in the house at the time were not taken into care.

Relations said the girl - who was physically well - was not the only member of the family with blonde hair.

In the Greek case, a DNA test on Maria proved she was not related to Christos Salis, 39, and Eleftheria Dimopoulou, 40, and the couple have been held on charges of abduction and document fraud.

The Garda said it takes seriously all reports concerning child welfare, and takes immediate steps in line with regulations.

"Protecting vulnerable children is of paramount importance to An Garda Siochana and we continue to work in partnership with the HSE and other agencies to ensure children's safety," a spokesman for the force said.

"An Garda Siochana has a published and comprehensive policy which remains under constant review into the investigation of sexual crime, crimes against children and child welfare, which provides for an effective and coherent approach to the investigation of this sensitive and challenging area."

The statement concluded: "An Garda Siochana want to assure the community that we take extremely serious all reports received from members of the public concerning child welfare issues. In all cases immediate steps are taken to protect the welfare of the child in accordance with relevant statutory provisions and obligations."

Justice Minister Alan Shatter said: "An Garda Siochana and the HSE have to deal with very difficult situations and have to make very difficult decisions when dealing with issues of child protection.

"They can be open to criticism for either doing something or doing nothing. In the past, for example, the authorities have been criticised for not intervening to protect children at risk.

"In each of these cases, the Gardai responded in good faith to concerns expressed to them."

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