Prosecutor to reopen missing children probe [update]

Court of First Instance prosecutor Panayiota Fakou on Monday called for the reopening of an investigation into the disappearance of 502 children from an Athens children’s home around the time of the 2004 Olympic Games.

The children, who are all believed to be Albanian Roma, were taken into the Aghia Varvara children’s home as part of a government program launched in 1998 aimed at curbing an increase in the exploitation of children being forced by their families or by human trafficking rackets to beg on the streets or wash car windows at traffic intersections.

Fakou called for the file on the children to be reopened in case new evidence could shed light on the children’s fate and indicate whether any of them have fallen victim to rackets operating in Greece.

According to a United Nations report published last year, 159 children out of the 661 accommodated at the Aghia Varvara institution between 1998 to 2002 either ran away or were returned to Albania. The remaining 502 remain unaccounted for.

The UN’s Committee on the Rights of the Child highlighted a series of shortcomings at the institution and expressed concern regarding the lack of progress made by Greek authorities in investigating complaints of disappearances by children’s rights groups.

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