Controversy over removal of Roma children from families in UK

By • on August 30, 2012

Rumors about the removal of children from Roma families originally from Central and Eastern Europe have raised fears among immigrant parents in Great Britain, Romea.cz reports. The Joj Slovak TV station set off anxieties with two reports about British social workers taking away Slovak and Czech children without providing their families any justification. The segments were aired on 21 and 22 August.

The Joj TV reports present several stories, including that of Stefan David, a father who allegedly attempted suicide after his three children, the youngest one only 6 weeks old, were taken away by six police officers who stormed the apartment and handcuffed him. According to Joj, British authorities declined to comment on the case.

In one Joj TV report, a Romani mother says the British authorities took her child with no explanation.

However, a report by Czech Radio cited by Romea.cz says the stories from the Joj report are several years old and in some cases are already in the courts. A statement from the British Embassy in Prague has insisted that the UK authorities have a right to “temporarily remove the children from their families” to ensure the children’s protection, but only if social welfare workers fail to work things out with the family and after a court has evaluated the situation.

Lucie Fremlova, an independent consultant with extensive experience with British Roma communities, criticized the media coverage as “very unbalanced,” saying it failed to put the David case in proper perspective.

After contacting “various social workers,” throughout England, she wrote, “in only one place (Leicester) did someone know of the temporary removal of two Romani children, who had since been subsequently returned to their families. None of the other people I contacted knew of any concrete cases, but all of them are facing the results of these rumors, which are spreading at the speed of light.”

Some Roma parents have reportedly decided not to send their children to school for fear they will be taken by the authorities.