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Girl, 7, in care pending DNA tests

A blonde-haired, blue-eyed seven-year-old girl has been put into care after being taken from a Roma family in Ireland.

The action was taken yesterday after a member of the public raised concerns about the child living with the family in a house in a south Dublin suburb.

No arrests have been made and the family are not facing an allegation of abduction.

About 15 friends and relations from the Roma community attended outside a family law court in Dublin city centre where legal proceedings took place over a care order for the child.

The details of the court case, which was heard in camera, can not be made public for legal reasons.

The Health Service Executive (HSE) was seeking an emergency order under section 13 of the Child Care Act 1991 after being called in by gardai.

Under the legislation the child could remain in care for up to eight days.

It is understood authorities wanted one week to carry out DNA tests to confirm the young girl's identity and biological links to the Roma family.

The action was taken after gardai believed the family were unable to prove the girl's identity conclusively.

A couple who say they are the girl's parents said she was born in a Dublin hospital in April 2006 and is their daughter.

The youngster is said to be physically well and her siblings were not taken in to care.

Unlike the case in Greece where a girl, known as Maria, was found in a settlement near Farsala, DNA tests have yet to be carried out.

The only similarity between the stories is that the girls are blonde-haired and blue-eyed and had a different appearance from that of the couple they were found living with.

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.

Europol and Interpol have been contacted about missing children while investigations continue to confirm the girl's identity.

Pavee Point, a rights groups that works on behalf of Irish travellers and the Roma community, called for the girl's case to be expedited.

"Pavee Point are concerned about witch-hunts against a vulnerable community and old stereotypes of an entire community being propagated in the media coverage of this development," a spokesman said.

"Actions by the state need to be evidence based and due process needs to be accorded to all communities living in Ireland.

"There is a real danger that precipitative action, undertaken on the basis of appearance, can create the conditions for an increase in racism and discrimination against the Roma community living here."

Pavee Point said that Roma children are grossly overrepresented in state care institutions in Europe and the main underlying reasons are poverty and discrimination.

Officers spent several hours at the Dublin property yesterday after asking for the family to produce documents to confirm the child is theirs.

A birth certificate was deemed to be inconclusive and a passport bore a picture of a baby and could not be matched to the seven-year-old.

Officers have claimed that the family gave them a name and date of birth which is different to records with the registry office.

The parents claimed that the girl was born in the Coombe Hospital in Dublin, but when gardai contacted medical staff they had no record of a child with the family name being born on the date the parents claimed.

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