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News 20 Jun 17

Romania Arrests Target Child-Trafficking Crime Gang

Romanian organised crime prosecutors say that more than 70 Roma children from the east of the country were trained to pick pockets and then sent to Paris to steal and beg.

Ana Maria Touma
BIRN
Bucharest
Beggar on the Champs-Elysees, Paris. Photo: Guilhem Vallut/Flikr.

Romanian prosecutors have uncovered an organised criminal group suspected of training more than 70 Roma children and sending them to France to steal from offices, pick pockets and beg on the streets of Paris.

Prosecutors said in a statement that on Monday they searched 25 homes in several Romanian cities and brought in 120 people for questioning in connection with the case.

Among them were more than 50 minors aged from 10 to 13.

At the same time, the Judiciary Police in Paris also conducted searches and brought in suspects for questioning.

Prosecutors from Romania’s organised crime division, DIICOT, said that people in the group were suspected of exploiting their own children in the north-eastern Romanian cities of Iasi and Roman.

The children were taught how to steal and beg, and sent to camps at the periphery of Paris where the alleged ringleaders organised them.

The children were often abused and threatened that they would not be allowed to come home if they did not steal, prosecutors believe.

The Romanian authorities began working with French police on the case in 2016.

Romania was among the European countries with the highest share of children at risk of poverty or social exclusion in 2015 - 46.8 percent of the population, or 1.7 million children, according to Eurostat.

In 2009, France deported over 20,000 Romanians and Bulgarians, most of them from the Roma community, back to their countries and destroyed dozens of informal camps.

More than 10,000 Roma were forcibly evicted the by French authorities last year, with most deportations taking place during the winter months, according to a report released by the European Roma Rights Centre and the Human Rights League of France.

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