Over the past 15 years, the sale of babies in Bulgaria’s poor Roma communities has become almost commonplace. With help from traffickers, destitute parents are selling their newborns in neighbouring Greece, where adoption laws are lax.

Grinding poverty among this often oppressed minority fuels the trend, and the “explanations” given by the bereft mothers fool few.

“Iliyana left for Greece pregnant. She came back a week ago, without the belly and without the baby, saying that it died at birth in Greece,” whispered a woman in the run-down southeastern village of Ekzarh Antimovo.

“It is the third baby that she has sold,” she added, with a knowing glance.

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