Gypsy Child Thieves

For centuries gypsies lived on the margins of society and faced brutal discrimination. Many have resorted to begging and stealing to survive, but in the last twenty years organized crime has taken over and since 2007, when Romania joined the European Union, gypsy children have been trafficked and exploited on a massive scale. In Spain eight-year-olds robbing grown men at cash machines has become a common sight. In Italy a major police investigation found enslaved children locked in a shack like animals.

It's only the tip of the iceberg and it's a phenomenon that we'll have to fight against for a very long time. Liviu Tipurita grew up in Romania and he's been making films about gypsies and about child trafficking for many years. To investigate what's happening to these children he's going on a journey that would take him inside the closed world of the gypsy community, and he'll reveal the shocking tide of racism they face. These children are the victims of a culture of crime and the society that seems to have abandoned them. The question is: will anyone save them from the hands of their exploiters.

It's the week before Christmas in Madrid and for the Spanish children it's a time of great joy and anticipation, but Liviu is there because he's heard there are many gypsy children from Romania in the city working as thieves. Wandering about the center of town he sees gypsy beggars, but there's something more sinister going on there. As he heads back to his hotel he sees a girl hanging around the cash machine. She's no older than 13 and at first sight she appears to be begging but actually she's watching customers as they enter their pin and approaches them as they're about to withdraw money.

She's using a piece of paper to cover her hand as she tries to press the button for the highest sum available on the cache machine and take the money as it comes out. She's a distraction thieve, one of the gypsy children that the police say make up a third of all the under-17-year old they have to deal with in the city.

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