Bulgaria to seek Maria’s return from Greece

Bulgaria said Tuesday it will ask the Greek authorities to hand over a young girl found in a Roma camp this month who was wrongly thought to have been abducted.

“The state child protection agency will undertake the necessary actions for the return of Maria… who was indisputably proven to be the child of Sashka and Atanas Rusev from the town of Nikolaevo,” the agency said in a statement.

The blonde girl, aged between 4-6, made international headlines when she was found living with a Roma couple — who were not her real parents — in the Greek town of Farsala.

The girl was wrongfully thought to be an abducted western European child until the Greek and Bulgarian authorities tracked down her real parents — also Roma — to a ghetto in the central town of Nikolaevo last week.

DNA tests proved the parentage of Sashka and Atanas Rusev, who have nine other children, five of whom are also blonde.

They later admitted having abandoned the girl in 2009, just seven months after she was born in Greece, because they were so poor.

The mother, who is under investigation for allegedly selling Maria but has denied she took any money for her, has said she wanted to take the girl back.

The Greek Roma couple, who are in detention for allegedly abducting Maria, have also said they want to keep her.

However, the girl is unlikely to rejoin her poverty-stricken family if she is sent back to Bulgaria and would instead be placed in a crisis center or in foster care, the child protection agency said.

“Maria will remain there until finding a solution for her upbringing — a return to the biological family, or placement with relatives, in foster care or in a social institution,” the agency said.

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

The agency also ordered on Tuesday a review of the conditions under which Maria’s seven underage siblings were raised in the Nikolaevo ghetto with a view to taking protective measures if necessary. [AFP]