Unable to find out where 502 children missing from an Athens children’s home have gone, Greece is going to reopen an investigation and try to find how they vanished. Court of First Instance prosecutor Panayiota Fakou called for a renewed probe into the disappearance of the children around the time of the 2004 Olympics.
The children, who are all believed to be Albanian Roma, were put 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 or forced into child prostitution. It was not said why it has taken nine years to do so.
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.
It’s common for children to be put on the streets to beg, including infants held by con artists preying on people’s compassion. Some even hold computer-generated signs bearing the same false laments.