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Originally published October 24, 2013 at 4:19 PM | Page modified October 25, 2013 at 7:24 AM

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Ireland vows to review Roma child-welfare cases

The removal of two fair-haired Roma children from their families spurred accusations of racial profiling and a call by a rights group for an independent investigation.


The New York Times

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DUBLIN, Ireland — In a case that has drawn scrutiny here, Irish authorities promised Thursday to review the circumstances under which two blond, blue-eyed Roma children were removed from their families in different parts of the country this week — only to be returned when DNA testing confirmed their parentage.

But a rights group called the government review, pledged by Justice Minister Alan Shatter, inadequate and insisted that a full independent inquiry should scrutinize the episodes, which some Roma representatives called racial profiling.

The removal and return of the children by police followed the jailing of a Roma couple in central Greece on Monday over the suspected abduction of a child found when police raided an encampment. The discovery raised alarms about human trafficking and illegal adoption rackets, heightening the glare on Roma populations in many parts of Europe.

The events in Ireland provoked widespread concern that the children — a 7-year-old girl and a 2-year-old boy — were removed solely on the basis of claims that they did not look like Roma, who are generally dark-haired and olive-skinned, with brown eyes.

In a terse statement Wednesday night, the police said the protection of vulnerable children was of “paramount importance,” but they would not elaborate on why they had removed the two Roma children. No arrests were made in either case, and there was no suggestion of abuse.

Martin Collins, a director of Pavee Point, a rights group representing the Roma, who number an estimated 5,000 in Ireland, said both cases showed “racial profiling in the extreme” and that the organization wanted an independent inquiry.

He said he feared that more children who were not dark-skinned and brown-eyed “could be taken away, one after the other, for DNA test after DNA test. It’s outrageous. It’s despicable.”

Shatter said the police had acted in good faith but that procedural changes might be needed. He said he expected a report within two weeks.



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