Irish authorities take custody of blond girl living with Roma

LONDON – Authorities in Ireland have taken custody of a child described as a blond-haired, blue-eyed girl in the care of a Roma family she did not resemble, the second such case in Europe in a week.

Police said Tuesday that they took the girl into custody Monday afternoon in a neighborhood in southwest Dublin. They have turned the youngster over to the care of Ireland’s health authority.

A police spokesman did not offer any other details about the case. But Irish media described the girl as a fair-haired 7-year-old in good health who had been living with a Roma family. The parents asserted that she was their daughter, but police were suspicious and did not give credence to the identity documents they produced, news reports say.

The case comes on the heels of a similar one in Greece which has captured international headlines with photos of a tow-headed girl called Maria and the darker-complected Roma couple from whom she was taken.

In that case, the adults have offered contradictory explanations for how the girl came into their household, and a DNA test has shown that they and the child are not biologically related, Greek police say. The couple have been arrested on suspicion of abduction and welfare fraud.

Appeals for information on where Maria might have come from have generated a flood of tips and claims from all over the world. The case has also raised fears of organized trafficking in children, but no evidence has emerged.

Roma leaders have expressed concern that Roma throughout Europe – who are widely known as Gypsies and already shunned and discriminated against – would suffer more ostracism.

Irish news organizations say that the police in Dublin might seek a DNA test on the girl found Monday and the family with whom she was living. Reports say that authorities raided the family’s home on a tip from a member of the public.

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Twitter: @HenryHChu

henry.chu@latimes.com