Two blond, blue-eyed children taken from Roma families in Ireland have been returned after DNA tests proved they are their biological children.
Irish police and health officials are being accused of racial profiling and incompetence.
The seven-year-old girl was taken by a dozen police officers as well as child welfare officials from her home in Tallaght, Dublin following a tip off that she looked noticeably different to her parents. In a separate incident, a two-year-old boy was removed from his family in Athlone.
The family of the seven-year-old girl asked other parents to imagine how they would feel if it were their child who was taken away and added they hoped no-one else would have to go through a similar ordeal.
The investigation came after a Roma couple in Greece were accused of abducting a little girl. DNA tests showed the child, named Maria, was not related to them.
Bulgarian link to Maria
Police in Bulgaria have interviewed a Roma couple who they believe could be the girl’s parents but would not comment about what they had learned.
Local media identified the Roma woman as Sasha Ruseva, 38, from the town of Nikolaevo in southern Bulgaria. She is believed to have given birth in a hospital in central Greece in January 2009, Bulgarian National Television BNT said.
Footage shown on BNT showed the woman speaking outside a police station.
“I do not know whether she is mine or not. We had a child. We left it in Greece as I had nothing to feed her,” she told reporters. “I did not take any money. My daughter left with a man, so there was no one to look after the other children.”
Ruseva and her husband, Atanas Rusev, 36, have 10 children, five of whom are blonde and closely resemble the four-year-old girl found last week, BNT said, adding that the woman had recognised Maria as her child after seeing TV reports.
Reportedly the pair will take DNA tests to see whether they are related.
According to BNT, Ruseva said she left her then seven-month-old baby with a woman in Greece four years ago when she and her husband worked in the Greek town of Larissa but needed to go back to Bulgaria to take care of their other children.
The family lives in extreme poverty in a two-room home in a Roma camp in the southern town of Nikolaevo, BNT said.
Ruseva said she was not completely certain that Maria was the child she had left in Greece, but that she would like to take her back, if DNA tests prove the blonde girl is her child.