October 29, 2013 / 2:50 PM / 5 years ago

Bulgaria to seek Roma girl's return from Greece

SOFIA (Reuters) - Bulgaria said on Tuesday it would seek the return of a four-year-old girl found with a Roma family in Greece after DNA tests proved her natural parents were Bulgarian.

Bulgarian Roma Sasha Ruseva (L), 35, holds her daughter next to her husband Atanas, 37, in front of their house in the town of Nikolaevo, some 280km (173miles) east of Sofia October 24, 2013. REUTERS/Ivan Ianev/BGNES

Tests have confirmed that Sasha Ruseva, a 35-year-old Roma woman with nine other children, is the mother of the girl named Maria whose blue eyes and blonde hair aroused the suspicions of Greek police when they raided a Roma camp.

Ruseva has said she wants to take back the child she says she left as a seven-month-old baby with another couple in Greece because she was too poor to care for her. She denies she took money for the child.

“The State Agency for Child Protection will take the necessary steps to bring back the girl Maria after it was proven she is a child of Sasha and Atanas Rusev,” the agency said in a statement.

It said social workers would meet Maria at the border and accommodate her either in a crisis centre or with a foster family until a decision was taken over her future - whether she should be reunited with her biological parents, cared for by other relatives or remain with a foster family.

DNA tests carried out in Greece showed the Roma couple she was with were not her biological parents and they have been charged with abducting a minor and detained.

The little girl is currently in the care of the Athens-based charity Smile of the Child.

Her natural parents and six of their children occupy one room in a crumbling house on the outskirts of the town of Nikolaevo, some 280 km (170 miles) east of Sofia. The children often sleep on a mud floor and speak little Bulgarian.

Both parents are jobless and live on welfare payments.

The case has illustrated the plight of Roma gypsies in Bulgaria, the European Union’s poorest member state. Many spend their lives close to destitution, illiterate and on the fringes of society.

Reporting by Tsvetelia Tsolova and Angel Krasimirov; editing by Andrew Roche

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