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'Smile of the Child' helps mystery girl as Roma couple are held in custody in Greece

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'Smile of the Child' helps mystery girl as Roma couple are held in custody in Greece
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She is known as Maria and has captivated Greece. An international search is now under way to find her real parents

For the moment the young girl is being looked after by the ‘Smile of the Child’ charity and is in hospital undergoing tests. Maria was found during a police raid on a Roma camp in central Greece.

A judge has given temporary custody of the girl to the charity and it is working closely with the national and European organisations.

“The girl has accepted the people that are taking care of her now and she understands they care about her and love her. She is a very cheerful child, apart from the fact she is beautiful, she is happy and is playing with her toys all the time. She is responding normally to the environment around her. She is learning Greek and has already spoken her first words, because up until now, she had only learned the Roma language,” explained social worker Athanasia Kakarouba.

The couple with whom she was found have been detained in custody pending a trial. They claim she was handed over to them by her mother who said she could not look after her daughter.

The case has raised questions whether children are being stolen to order of if the couple were part of a wider child trafficking ring. Outside the court in the city of Larissa members of the Roma community showed their support for the couple and claimed they are being unfairly stigmatised.

Our correspondent in Athens, Fay Doulgkeri, who spent some time with the charity ‘Smile of the Child’ said: “The phones in the operational centre of the charity haven’t stopped ringing. Thousands of people from Greece and abroad have been calling to help in any way they can, in the ongoing police searches for the child’s parents.”