Authorities in Romania are investigating a social program for troubled youths, who were allegedly kept in "slavery-like conditions." A German couple is being investigated for human trafficking.
Romania's Directorate for Investigating Organized Crime and Terrorism opened an investigation into eight individuals suspected of mistreating German children. The agency carried out a search of the suspects' homes on Tuesday.
Authorities said a German couple was part of the individuals being investigated. All suspects, who have not yet been arrested, were involved with "Projekt Maramures," a "social program" financed by the German state and licensed by Romania's Labor Ministry.
Projekt Maramures sought to "rehabilitate" troubled German children and teenagers aged between 12 and 18 through recreational activities and psychological assistance. It was located in the northern rural Romanian region of Maramures.
But its founders are being investigated for allegedly forcing teenagers aged between 12 and 18 to "do exhausting physical labor" in numerous households.
The minors were allegedly kept in "slavery-like conditions" and treated them in "humiliating and degrading" ways, prosecutors said in a statement.
Social program just a front
Romanian authorities said the German couple allegedly created the program for human trafficking "under the guise of carrying out legitimate educational services."
Prosecutors added that the teens were not allowed to study or take their prescription drugs. They had no contact with the outside world and were targets of "harsh and brutal methods of so-called reeducation."
The alleged abuses began in 2014 and went on until this month, prosecutors said.
Though authorities did not say how many children had been affected, the program touted 60 minors. Many of the affected teens have been taken into foster care by social workers in the region.
Neither the German state ministry that oversees the program nor Projekt Maramures have commented on the accusation.
The abuse allegations surrounding the program had been previously reported by Romanian media, but no action had been taken until this month.
jcg/ng (AFP, AP)