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Carei is a small town in Romania at the Hungarian border with a proud heritage. A Communist statue overlooks the town square, glorifying the Romanians who fell liberating their fatherland in World War II. On one side is the sculpted head of a peasant, on the other the head of a soldier in a tin helmet, commemorating the last stretch of Romanian land freed from the Nazis.
On a wet Tuesday afternoon in February, four kids are laughing behind the statue. One brings out a massive glitter gun, shoots it into the air and sprays red and silver confetti over his friends and the white stone of the monument. The kids giggle, disperse and scuttle away into the town. Industries such as cotton, hemp and sugar thrived here during Communism. These factories are now closed. The town still makes furniture and cooking oil, while German tyre manufacturer Continental is the largest employer.
But on 21 November , Carei was shocked by an article in the British tabloid newspaper The Sun, alleging that child slaves in the town were making toys for chocolate treats Kinder Eggs. The reporter, Nick Parker, quotes Cristian Jurj, the father of two children aged 11 and six. The implication is that children in Romania are forced to assemble toys for money. The newspaper has a history of demonizing Romanians and the EU, so it must have been hard not to resist the suggestion that Romanian parents allowed an Italian multinational to exploit their kids to prepare toys for Kinder Eggs.
This brand enjoys deep emotional resonance to every Brit under At the edge of Carei is the exit to the town of Satu Mare, a thoroughfare for freight trucks transporting goods between Hungary and Romania.
The houses are a mix of smart and double-glazed homes and shacks with broken windows and tiles. When journalists from The Sun visited Timea Jurj in November last year, she was recovering from stomach surgery and living off handicapped allowance. Her illness meant she could not stand for long, so found it difficult to find work and provide for her children. Eventually a friend told her she could earn money putting together toys for Kinder Eggs while her kids were at school.