Dublin: Irish authorities said Wednesday they had removed two children from Roma families due to concerns about their identity, sparking warnings about racial profiling following the Greek ‘mystery girl’ inquiry.
A boy aged two was taken from a family in central Ireland on Tuesday but returned a few hours later, while officials were awaiting the results of DNA tests on a seven-year-old girl who was removed from another family on Monday.
Roma communities around the world are in the spotlight after the discovery of the girl in Greece, known as Maria and dubbed the “blonde angel” by local media.
Ireland’s Immigrant Council warned the authorities against unfairly targeting the community.
“Any targeting of members of an individual community for such scrutiny, on the basis of unfounded perceptions that they are more likely than others to break the law, is wrong,” said chief executive Denise Charlton.
In the latest case in Ireland, a toddler was taken from a family in Athlone in the Irish midlands on Tuesday following an investigation and placed in the care of the health service under the Child Care Act, a police spokesman told AFP.
The child was returned on Wednesday morning, the spokesman added.
The boy’s father, speaking in broken English, said his son has blonde hair and blue eyes but that the boy’s mother and great-grandfather have the same colouring.
“My wife, my grandfather is the same thing; and they (the police) tell me. ‘I know that but people will not believe that’, and I said you can take my blood,” the man told RTE.
The man said he spent a number of hours with police, before he agreed to allow his child to be taken into care overnight pending the result of a DNA test.
On Wednesday morning, the man collected his son from health service carers. “He tell me no worry you can take your kid back because I know it is your kid,” the man told RTE.
Warnings of a ‘witch-hunt’
In the earlier incident, police removed a blonde, blue-eyed seven-year-old girl from a Roma family in Dublin over concerns that she did not look like her parents and they could not prove her identity, according to media reports.
The results of DNA tests are expected later Wednesday.
Gabby Muntean, a support worker who has been in regular contact with the family, told the Irish Times newspaper the parents insisted the child was theirs.
“They are very upset. They have told me the child is 100 percent theirs and have offered blood tests and DNA tests to prove this,” she said.
“Now, they just want their daughter back. It is hard to see any reason why this happened, other than the reports from Greece.”
According to media reports, the couple produced a birth certificate and a passport for their daughter but the documents failed to satisfy police.
“I don’t know why she was taken,” the girl’s 21-year-old sister told the Irish Independent newspaper, adding that she “was crying and very scared, she was choking”.
She said the family had come from Romania in 2001 but had lived in Dublin since 2009.
“My little brother also has blonde hair and blue eyes,” the woman added.
Due to strong child protection laws in Ireland, authorities are unable to publicly reveal details on individual cases and neither the child nor her family can be named.
The cases come after Greek authorities sought Interpol’s help to identify the young blonde girl found in a Roma camp in Greece last week.
The couple she was living with have been placed in pre-trial detention for allegedly abducting her.
Pavee Point, a charity that represents the traveller and Roma community in Ireland, said it was aware of a new incident and was making inquiries.
The group warned against “witch-hunts” targeting the Roma and traveller communities.
“Actions by the state need to be evidence based and due process needs to be accorded to all communities living in Ireland,” it said in a statement.
“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.