Romania youth centre staff held over ‘enslaving’ German teens

BUCHAREST (AFP) – Romanian prosecutors yesterday detained several employees of a youth centre over accusations they exploited German teenagers under a social programme designed to help troubled minors, judicial sources told AFP.

At least four minors have been rescued, while eight suspects, including a German couple, are under investigation for allegedly detaining children in “slavery-like conditions”.

The German couple in charge of the programme were brought in for questioning, according to a representative of the youth centre who requested anonymity. Three Romanian employees were also detained, news agency Mediafax said.

According to the local child protection agency, 20 children were at the centre – a remote farm in northern Romania – when prosecutors searched it on Tuesday along with seven other houses. Four of the children have been placed with the child protection agency, waiting for their parents or other guardians to pick them up, agency spokesman Adrian Mandru told AFP. He could not say where the other 16 are now.

Prosecutors allege that, under the so-called Projekt Maramures, children aged between 12 and 18 were forced to “do exhausting physical labour” and treated in “humiliating and degrading” ways in the farm and in numerous households in the Maramures county village of Viseu de Sus.

The project, financed by the German state, was founded and coordinated by one of the German suspects and licensed by Romania’s Labour Ministry, according to investigators.

The project promised to “rehabilitate” troubled children from Germany with recreational activities and psychological assistance.