Romania rocked by 'homes of horror' scandal

Romanian authorities have inspected more than 1,000 homes for the elderly after evidence emerged of residents at three such facilities being severely abused, starved and exploited. Almost 40 establishments have been temporarily or completely closed down and those in charge arrested. Labour Minister Marius Budăi, to whom the social services are subordinate, has resigned. How could it come to this, and what consequences will the scandal have?

Open/close all quotes (RO) /

Devastating at all levels

Elderly people only have bad options, laments Radu Burnete, director of employer association Concordia, on

“How do you think elderly persons who have to go to an old people's home feel after seeing the dreadful things that have been done to people there on TV? How guilty must all the families who have no choice but to put their loved ones in a retirement home feel? And how much unnecessary suffering for all those who should really be in such a facility but now don't want to register out of fear? Tens of thousands who can no longer look after themselves or be looked after by their families will refuse to go into a nursing home because of these incidents. They will die in misery for fear of being locked in a cellar like in the "homes of horror".”

Libertatea (RO) /

Basic care must not be left to the free market

One major reason for the wretched conditions is simply that the state does not provide sufficient funds, Libertatea fumes:

“Caring for the terminally-ill elderly is a hellishly difficult and highly skilled job that should be well paid. ... But with the money the state provides for this, only the most dreadful specimens among us are drawn to such jobs. Then they, of all people, are supposed to care for the most vulnerable. ... There have also been cases of childcare facilities supplying children in their care to prostitution networks. And of caterers giving children food that has gone off. These are the kind of things that happen when you leave basic services to the free market. This is pure neoliberalism coupled with austerity.”

Deutsche Welle (RO) /

A blast from the very dark past

The Romanian Service of Deutsche Welle draws comparisons with the Ceaușescu era:

“What took place in the 'homes of horror', as the press has dubbed them, is reminiscent of the orphanages under the Ceaușescu regime, where over 100,000 children were starved, tied to beds, dressed in rags, overrun with lice and hosed down with cold water when they were washed. This was the first image of Romania that the international press conveyed to the West after the end of communism. Thirty-three years later, Romanian society and the international public are still being faced with the same picture of horror, this time in three private old people's homes in Ilfov County.”

Spotmedia (RO) /

No one wanted to see this crime

If the neighbours hadn't remained silent for so long the scandal would have come to light much sooner, says Spotmedia:

“In addition to the monstrous cruelty of the perpetrators, this case reveals other dreadful dimensions of our society. Locals walked past the homes every day, there are neighbours living next to these facilities - they're not in the middle of the forest or a field. Some of the neighbours have now recounted on camera how they saw old people - dirty, some of them naked even in the middle of winter - standing at the gates begging for a slice of bread. The horror was unfolding where everyone could see it, not just behind closed doors. But how many of the eyewitnesses called the police?”