Monday, November 11, 2013

Who Steals Whose Children?

Recently there have been several high-profile cases of children being removed from Romany families—one in Greece and two in Ireland. The idea that Romany steal gadje (non-Romany) children has been part of European folklore for centuries. Ironically, the reverse is also true. One of Keith’s Romany friends said that, when he was a child, his parents used to tell him that if he didn’t behave, the gadje would come and take him away.
I myself experienced this. We had been invited to a Romany pastor’s home after the Sunday worship service. The women and children gathered around the kitchen table while the men ate and chatted in the more comfortable living room. The grandmother seemed to have trouble getting one of the little boys to eat and periodically fixed him with a serious look, said something in Romany, and gestured towards me. Clearly, if he didn’t behave that strange gadje woman would carry him off.
That amused me, but there is nothing amusing about jerking children out of their families without just cause. The European Roma Rights Centre notes:
Authorities must take a proportionate, responsible approach to child protection, based on facts and evidence, not on racial profiling. As a matter of principle, police action based on perceived difference in physical appearance between parents and children constitutes racial profiling . . . . We call on all national authorities to act in line with their own child protection procedures, and to show responsibility and restraint.
They have produced two factsheets explaining some of the core issues Romany children face including “a short overview of legal standards relating to racial profiling and child removal.”  
For more information, contact:
Sinan Gökçen
Media and Communications Officer
European Roma Rights Centre

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