A seven-year-old girl taken from her family by Irish authorities was set to be reunited with her Roma parents after claims she had been “abducted” were refuted by DNA tests.
The girl was taken into care by social services in Dublin this week after authorities were led to believe she was unrelated to her parents and five siblings.
Reading a statement on behalf of the family outside the court where the proceedings had been held in camera before Judge Brendan Toale, the family’s solicitor Waheed Mudah, said: “They do not accept that this was any proper or sufficient basis to take their daughter away from them thereby causing her and them upset.”
He added that “very serious questions” needed to be answered about the justification for their child’s removal. DNA tests have also been conducted for a second child – a two-year-old boy – who was also taken by Irish authorities but returned to his parents in Athlone.
Travellers groups in Ireland claim the authorities are guilty of hysteria after a Roma couple in Greece were charged with abducting a blonde-haired child called Maria. DNA tests proved they were not related.
Martin Collins of Pavee Point, which works on behalf of Irish travellers and the Roma community, claimed the children were “literally abducted from their families”. He added: “We hope it is not the beginning of some sort of pattern where children of Roma parents who are not dark-skinned and have brown eyes are taken away one after the other for DNA tests. It’s outrageous. It’s quite despicable.”
The families’ supporters said both girls were well-loved and looked after and there were no grounds to believe they were at risk to justify removal under the Child Care Act, 1991.
In the case of the older child, officials acted after neighbours expressed concern over the apparent mismatch in appearance following publicity over the case in Greece. Checks by the Gardai on maternity records at a Dublin hospital failed to corroborate the parents’ story and the Health Service Executive began foster proceedings.
The girl’s 18-year-old sister said: “She is very traumatised. They took her just because she has blue eyes and blonde hair. If you go over to Romania, most people have blue eyes as well.”
Denise Charlton, chief executive of the Immigrant Council of Ireland, said the Irish government should explain its measures to prevent discrimination. “Ireland has already been warned by a Council of Europe report in February about the need to prevent racial profiling, and the events of the past week have done little to reassure migrants this has taken place,” she said.
But Irish Children’s Minister, Frances Fitzgerald, said anyone with suspicions about a child should still come forward. “That’s a very serious issue worldwide – the trafficking of women and children, and Ireland is not immune to that,” she said.
It also emerged that three Greek Roma travellers had been arrested on the island of Lesvos on suspicion of child abduction. A girl, her partner, and mother had attempted to register a two-year-old baby boy as their son without “sufficient documentation”.