A new scandal has rocked Romania. Five people, including the German leader of a social project, have been arrested and remanded in custody on suspicion of trafficking in human beings, deprivation of liberty and gross maltreatment.
The Romanian prosecutor’s office accuses the men of having set up a criminal organization under the official pretext of a “re-education project” and mistreating a dozen young Germans as labor slaves. At least some minors have given evidence of brutal methods.
The methods of German project leaders and Romanian aides include the punishment of deprivation of food and liberty until locked in rooms and beatings. The 12-18 year olds had their passports taken away, they had to work hard on village farms and often sleep with animals in the stables.
Project leaders and several other minors have not accepted the allegations
The Maramures Project
For 15 years, a German couple in northern Romania is leading the project in Maramures, a picturesque mountainous region. The social project is dedicated to young people with educational problems from Germany.
The German-funded “Maramures Project” promised a fresh start for many young people from families with social problems. Young people with psychic problems, drug addicts or offenders had to develop a new perspective on another world.
Re-education Abroad – A Fat Business?
A year ago Spiegel had reported that organizations that are difficult to monitor, in remote regions outside Germany, regularly employ young people with educational problems.
There are such projects not only in Romania but also in Poland, Greece, Russia and the Caucasus. They all work according to one model: Hard work, harsh punishments in disobedience, even beatings, deprivation of food and freedom.
The “last chance” for very troubled young people does little to cost the German state. For each minor the authors of the Maramures project received from 4,000-6,000 Euros per month. After a couple of months of “adjustment” at the project center, young people are sent to host families, receiving between € 200-600 per month, and also the unpaid youth work. The Maramures project is sponsored by 30 minors.
Official reports by the Romanian authorities indicate the suffering of these children. There is even evidence that medical interventions were made against their will. Girls are given needles several times a year in order to avoid becoming pregnant. The prosecution announced that there had been some suicide attempts as a result of physical and psychological trauma.
According to the prosecution, “There have been reports that the culprits have had some associates at local authorities, such as police, municipalities, social services, who have alerted executives to planned controls. But local authorities do not accept the allegations.