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Alleged abductions bring plight of Roma into stark focus

October 23rd, 2013
03:37 PM ET

By Mick Krever, CNN

The mysterious case of a blond-haired girl picked up by police in a Greek Roma camp has brought into stark focus the plight of Roma people across Europe.

Interpol is helping Greek authorities conduct a worldwide search to find “Maria’s” biological parents; police became suspicious because she is blond and blue-eyed, while the couple who say they are her parents had darker complexions.

“It produces and reinforces prejudice which already exists in the society related to the fact that Roma are engaged in a criminal behavior; in a way, this case says Roma are stealing babies,” Dezideriu Gergely, executive director of the European Roma Rights Centre told CNN’s Hala Gorani, sitting in for Christiane Amanpour, on Wednesday.

The couple from whom Maria was taken have been charged with child abduction. They deny the charges, and insist that she was adopted.

“The problem here is that among the Roma communities we have a diversity of groups, and not all of the Roma are dark skinned,” Gergely said. “So what and how would authorities handle this situation?”

And it’s not only Greece. Irish police on Wednesday removed another blond girl from a Roma couple who police suspected was not their own.

DNA tests now show that that couple are indeed the biological parents, a source familiar with the case's legal proceedings told CNN Wednesday.

“It is extremely important to say that yes, it is something wrong about it and state authorities need to react,” he told Gorani. “But the responsibility in this case – it’s individual, it’s not collective.”

In other words, there is no reason that potential individual wrongdoing should be applied to an entire group, millions-strong across Europe.

“High state-level officials,” he said, “are saying that Roma are not sharing the same values and therefore there is no place for them in the respected societies.”

It is critical, he told Gorani, to look not only at the effects, but also the causes.

“The crux of the problem lies in poverty and racism,” Gergely said. “This cannot be easily addressed; it’s a complex issue.”

Everyone in Europe – Roma and governments alike – have agreed that if there is a solution it lies in “social inclusion,” he told Gorani.

But, he contended, while European governments say they support this goal, they have not acted on implementing it.

“Of course there’s a lot of efforts needed from the Roma community in itself, because the Roma community also has to overcome its own problems,” he said. “But there is need for support in that regard.”


Filed under:  Latest Episode • Roma
soundoff (32 Responses)
  1. mimi

    ahahahahah irish police so fail..... gosh peopel are really braindead and they get stupider each year

    October 23, 2013 at 4:52 pm | Reply
    • Seamus G

      And also destroying the english language, it's rather sad isn't it.

      October 24, 2013 at 4:35 am | Reply
  2. lucian

    No matter how much the state or the government will try, nothing can be accomplished while the Roma people REFUSE to integrate themselves into the society. The change is not possible because of them, because they do not share the same values and do NOT want to! I learned it the hard way, trust me!

    October 23, 2013 at 5:03 pm | Reply
    • David Lejdar

      What is that "integration" to you? And what are those "values" according to you?

      October 23, 2013 at 8:40 pm | Reply
      • willknutsen

        If one reads news of Gypsies in , say, the 1890's, it would sound almost exactly like the one here. That is what is meant by "not integrating". In a lot of case, they have not done so. When I was young, I had a romantic (pun intended) view of the Roma people. I learned as I got older that I was generalizing as a youth: a lot of Roma are repulsive child abusers(making kids beg) and habitual thieves. Many are not. The "values" in this case should be obvious: it is wrong to make kids beg, then give the money to a "mafia boss". Hopefully you will agree.

        October 24, 2013 at 1:15 am |
      • David Lejdar

        I doubt that even in the U.S. every "village" would as if some Hollywood pe nthouse. Nevertheless, of course these days it is not as if 5000 years ago when wanderers made up camps of their own, but the apparently mentioned issue is rather about the "homeless" in the first place, in my opinion.

        As for child labour, i had no problem with doing dishes, taking out trash, taking dog for a walk, as child. Then in teenage years, helping with rebuilding house and with garden, and later being 11 hours away because of school and then coming "home" to take care of four animals and heating and other things while the (non-Roma) house owner was partying (elsewhere) and my mother earning money more than 300 km away and then me being basically homeless before even finishing school and the sort of school being rather useless as i had no funds nor anything for further education, a bit different issue in my opinion.
        Nevertheless, i do agree that the whole "let's use child for whatever" is rather low so or so. At least in sort of particular terms, if my biological parents were not able to keep themselves in check, and then basically just voluntarily lay around lazily and complain about all and everything, or so, then me basically financing them already as child sounds as something that would make me almost spit on them.

        Tho so or so, context is of course often important. E.g. taking a medieval times city as example where many children are parent- and home-less and politically voice-less and no real social security of any sorts, being taken in by a moreoreless ga ng of moreorless poor who would do some things not really legal would seem in my opinion preferable than e.g. becoming some temporary se x sla ve of sorts. But, the whole issue of "we want to do that because we think it is cool and no matter that many a contextual thing is different" is not only about that.

        October 25, 2013 at 7:18 am |
    • the Red Terror

      How are the woes and troubles of impoverished discriminated peoples their fault? Disgusting racist piece of trash!

      October 23, 2013 at 9:05 pm | Reply
      • Adam

        You have a comprehension problem ? Or you just deliberately trying to be a tool...Roma get subsidized grants from governments and squat on land that are not theirs. They probably have MORE money than you do but they CHOOSE to live "impoverished".

        October 24, 2013 at 4:31 am |
    • GGJ

      True, and as for poverty, they all seem to ride around in new range rovers and expensive caravans. They are also adorned with lots of "bling" these days!

      October 24, 2013 at 4:56 am | Reply
    • shantanu

      i agree with you

      October 24, 2013 at 9:10 am | Reply
  3. Oliver Cowley

    I am born and bred in central London, a diverse mix of cultures. Some of the newer cultures I have only recently been exposed to. One of my work colleagues lovely girl from Romania, another bouncer of the Mayfair club who was shot in the head killed on route home.

    October 23, 2013 at 5:28 pm | Reply
    • Lililu

      Is any relation between these two?

      October 23, 2013 at 9:05 pm | Reply
  4. Don

    So typical of CNN to defend minority criminals.

    Open your eyes for goodness' sake – get on a train in Paris or walk down the streets of most major cities in Europe and see the trouble these people are causing. They've always been a problem. We should send them back to India where they originated from.

    October 23, 2013 at 5:42 pm | Reply
    • Stephen

      How is reporting on the news defending the Roma couple? It turns out the girl was their daughter. Would you have preferred CNN to not report that just so you could feel better about yourself?

      October 23, 2013 at 7:13 pm | Reply
    • David Lejdar

      If time of "arrival of family strings to continent" is imporant to you, most so-called Americans' ancestors immigrated to the Americas a few centuries ago of which most at least at first from Europe...

      October 23, 2013 at 8:48 pm | Reply
  5. Apeg

    I live in Bulgaria, a country with about 5% roma minority. Those guys are causing troubles all the time and they REFUSE to integrate. There are cases when they get new homes given by Foundations or Local Government and those homes are turned into a garbage dump within weeks. For example they use their new wooden furniture to make fire or steal different metals out of all imaginable sources and turn them back for handful of money. Sometimes whole cities are left without electricity because they steal the powerlines to turn them for small ammounts of money. There are ways to solve that problem, but I am not the person to talk about that.

    October 23, 2013 at 6:06 pm | Reply
  6. das

    why did you stop calling them GYPSIES?

    October 23, 2013 at 6:08 pm | Reply
  7. Roman

    Please stop calling them roma or romani , because then people confuse them with the population of Romania. I am from Romania and we have around 2 million gypsies ( tigani). When we were children we all knew to stay away from gypsies because they kidnap children to use for begging. One little girl from the street where I grew up ( I think she was 5 then) was taken by a gypsy woman but fortunately a neighbour saw everything and ran and took the girl back. Also , I saw with my own eyes horrible acts done by gypsies from stealing to beating people. I have mixed feelings about them , because one of my best friends is gypsy but he is one of the kindest, honest and hard working person I know. He is also appalled about how the majority of gypsy live and act. So at the end , laws and rules must be obbeyed by everyone , but if anyone breaks the law they shoud be harshly punished without taking into consideration the race or nationality.

    October 23, 2013 at 6:34 pm | Reply
    • David Lejdar

      I think many or most parents teach child/ren of theirs to not trust "strangers". Of course, if a child grows up on a village where assumedly seasonally only some strangers appear, there isn't really much to explain as example of "stranger".

      October 23, 2013 at 9:30 pm | Reply
      • Constantin

        In Romania children abductions by gypsies were well known since many decades ago, at least. Especially blonde children.
        This has nothing to do with distrust of strangers. When gypsies were around mothers were very careful not to lose sight of their children, and especially very small ones.

        October 24, 2013 at 4:40 am |
  8. rajadiablos

    I seriously doubt whether there is as much prejudice as there is bias, and bias can be justified. I personally have no prejudice against gypsies but in my travels to many countries over a long period of time it has been my experience to have come into contact with gypsies on very many occasions. I am amused at their creativity in their attempts to scam people and have never had a single contact in which an attempt to scam was not forthcoming. Therefore, I have a bias against gypsies because I have not known or seen a single one yet who was not out to take advantage of someone. This, unfortunately, is a part of their culture worldwide and is passed on from generation to generation. Undoubtedly some gypsies must get fed up with their life style and leave the herd, but those who stay produce negative assessments because of their criminal and cuasi criminal behavior. Having negative assessments about a group based on countless observations of dubious conduct is hardly prejudice (pre-judgment).

    October 23, 2013 at 7:08 pm | Reply
    • David Lejdar

      Yeah, there are some who try to scam, among various "groups". Tho, if some use that an (apparent) scam is refused upon as discrimination by some, then those some i could understandably take not really serious about that especially if they refuse to say what happened and/or make stuff up.

      So or so, if you watch assumedly a group of a few hundreds and only them, then of course any "judgement" would seem very flawed even if you don't expand your "observation" to millions more you somehow associate as if one social group.

      October 23, 2013 at 9:20 pm | Reply
  9. Stan

    I was on Holidays in Greece a few years ago, The gypsy kids were everywhere trying to beg for money from tourist and citizens while the mother was smoking away not a care in the world...

    October 23, 2013 at 8:04 pm | Reply
    • David Lejdar

      The article here isn't really about the Greek per se...

      October 23, 2013 at 9:21 pm | Reply
  10. David Lejdar

    Uhmm, many of you guys consider Roma Roma because of tone of skin? Of course, as a German citizen and especially after the whole racial (and to an extent political) profiling holocaust thing, it seems to me very lame to take any such approach. And overally anyhow due to "culture" being rather non-biological at its base.

    Sure, there seems to be a Roma ethnicity in Europe who apparently share to an extent language (group) as well some heritage, talking about it in sort of academical terms about the minor differences between groups of humans. Nevertheless, as far as I know most if not all are not really anyhow as completely secluded, meaning that more precise would be to talk about sort of mixed ethnicities. By which is not anyhow meant that anyone would not be allowed to things about nationality, but if the try is to take a sort of outside view on assumed group, mentioned issues are relevant.

    So or so, criminal activity usually isn't as if bound to any however group, and was often in many cases even completely official, e.g. slavery trade by western states / countries "merely" a few centuries ago.

    Of course, an issue is that of discrimination. Tho that often seems to be based and/or derived on some sort of "we are such an awesome biological nation" ideologies, something many around seem to be even further perpetrating.

    As for attempts to talk to Roma as if to a group, honestly, most states don't seem to be really able of that themselves to all their nationals if people don't have TV or don't tune in. And the whole to assume that e.g. 6 million persons are exactly alike because they may look to some exactly alike, another foolishness in my opinion. Nevertheless, i think i also understand the issue of that many refuse to any in this context economical class-talk (lower class, upper class) due to issues under some regimes such as about targeting particular class – e.g. the rich for being filthy capitalists and/or the poor for being filthy socialists. But after all this what this a lot about. Another relevant issue surely is that what is understood as political and/or civil freedoms, tho many an issue is about economical standing of sort, with which is then relevant that e.g. in a 3-room flat where 10 persons live understandably there is usually not really any place for study, hobby, etc. nor does it necessarily offer a place to rest for persons especially full-time active elsewhere. So or so, many a situation is many a person can find themselves systematically easily in (e.g. mortage, loss of job, ...), so most issues come down to political issues as such in which the artificial boundaries among classified groups seem often as if purposely ghettosizing these classified groups.

    As for the issue of integration per se, apparently to an extent many expect sort of something they are not really clear about themselves. If the situation really was such that organized criminal activity would occur really only from some neighbourhoods, then understandably focus on such would have a reason. Nevertheless, from what i know there is various organized criminal activity basically across the board, and to assume that e.g. a child of in comparison financially rich parents would never ever produce drugs and/or that any financially rich person never ever would do anything criminal and/or be so-calledly morally corrupt, is non-sense. Basically same with anyone really regardless of whichever standing.

    To sum up what i wanted to say foremostly here, to me citizenship of a person is very relevant. And further in terms of assumedly social inclusion of the poor, there are many criteria which would seem to me more way more important, such as education level, access and/or lack of access to markets, debts, ... And apparently an issue with that would be that of ex-convicts, especially if we talk about prisons as "correctional facilities" by which is usually meant to set the convict straight, tho again, surely a matter across the board even if we assume that some are let off more easily than others in cases, which is then of course as if another issue so or so, tho also why i wrote out a bit the previous of this entire comment.

    October 23, 2013 at 8:18 pm | Reply
  11. Lee Nesbit

    I hope that not all the other folks who submitted comments think that all the Roma are thieves and kidnappers. These people have been the victims of discrimination – both in Europe and North America – for centuries. That said, one cannot simply ignore cases where children have "disappeared" or the unfortunately common situation in European train stations where groups of Roma children accost unsophisticated travelers and, one way or another, get their money. Mr. Krever's report displayed zero objectivity. If he wants to promote his personal causes, let him do it in a forum other than CNN.

    October 23, 2013 at 8:40 pm | Reply
  12. Leaving_Earth

    The Italians of Rome and the Romanians of Romania are offended that the gypsies are called Roma/Romanies

    October 23, 2013 at 9:26 pm | Reply
  13. David Lejdar

    What takes it for young persons e.g. in the U.S. to be "included" in the sort of official consume society? Many material things for a total of assumedly more than thousands of U.S. dollars rather often, doesn't it?

    Particularly pointing out again the use of term "social inclusion" without anyone here really saying what is meant by that.

    October 23, 2013 at 10:12 pm | Reply
  14. john

    These people live in a very complex society. I have a few friends that are Roma and now live in America. First they don't trust each other. Every Roma I know say this to me. Second, they live on welfare off the country they are in and refuse to pay into or be part of that society. Some of the ones that I know drive BMWs and have more pocket cash than I do but everything they earn is "under the table" and they always say they have no money. Nothing is held in banks, and everything is paid in cash. They are masters of living off of nothing. Their kids are home schooled, most of them do not have normal jobs, and I've only known of one person ever dating outside of their community. It is like a country within a country. I have learned never to trust them even when I'm friends with them which is exactly how they feel about each other. It is all about watching your back. I honestly don't know how or why they choose to live this way but don't be fooled it is their choice. Here in America, they reassembled and are acting the same way as they did in Europe. It does not work so well for them here in the US and they tend to go in and out of jail. Never for big issues. Mostly for steeling. Steeling kids and trafficing children is a way of life for them and to them it is not a crime. They feel they are helping the children have a life while the family earns some money on the side. That is how F@%ked up they are.

    October 24, 2013 at 5:15 am | Reply
  15. Reosh

    I live in Slovakia and the Roma issue is a total mess. The Slovak government has tried numerous programs to help the Roma and failed. Not for the lack of trying, but because Gypsies adults in Slovakia teach their children how to steal, reward those who are successful and beat those who are not.

    In Slovakia whole villages, homes, apartments have been stripped of everything by gangs of Roma. The government, social services, schools and the Slovak community are left with nothing good to say about the Roma community.

    If you think this is nothing but some racist rambling then you should come to Slovakia and we'll drop you off for a night visit and see if you survive. Yes not all Roma or Gypsies are bad and some are hard working, talented people, but you're not going to find them in one these communities.

    Each Roma community is structured around the family and that family supports a Gypsy King. You can recognize him usually by the large gold ring he wears. Break the rules in this community and punishment will be harsh.

    When Roma operate or live in a community they steal as a community. Success is build on, have's and have not's and the couple who some how managed to get there hands on this little child were considered successful and now they face their worst nightmare. They broke the number one rule in the Roma community, they got caught.

    If their lawyer gets them out of jail. The Gypsy King's punishment and Roma will be very harsh... very.

    And the poor kid in question, she was not going to be sold into slavery, Roma don't do this, but instead she was on a one trip to supporting that community for the rest of her short life.

    October 24, 2013 at 5:45 am | Reply
    • john

      You are 100% correct. you said it better than I ever could.

      October 24, 2013 at 7:56 am | Reply
  16. sergun73

    Some women in Eastern European countries with the low social economic status (addicts, alcoholics, those who trade themselves etc.), facing the risk of full rejection by their family/relatives/friends are known to abandon a new born baby to Gypsies, as they knew a baby would always survive with them.

    Gypsies would gladly accept a white child (for begging) as it's a guaranteed income for them – the by-passers normally ignore Gypsy beggars and their kids, no matter how hard they try. If this has happened to Maria, it does not make her parents (those who raised her) a fraud.

    I grew up in Moldova, a Eastern European country next to Romania where we as kids always stayed away from the Gypsies (we called them Cygane), because of the risk of being kidnapped – we actually knew how to deal with them (the best way to deal with them was not to deal with them at all, avoiding any eye contact whatsoever as Gypsies were believed to be able to hypnotize – that was the street wisdom back then), but I also knew for sure the other side as well, when some young and poor woman at the brink of survival would prefer to leave her 'unlawful' child next to the Gypsies' tabor, rather than murder it (yes, murdering newborn babies was not uncommon).

    October 24, 2013 at 6:27 am | Reply

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