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Mexico rescues 458 children from squalid refuge amid abuse fears

Wednesday, 16 July 2014 - 8:14am IST | Place: Mexico | Agency: Reuters

Mexico said on Tuesday it had rescued 458 children from a vermin-infested refuge for abandoned boys and girls, some of whom it believes to have been sexually abused.The refuge was run by Rosa Verduzco, who is now being questioned by authorities, government officials told a news conference.

The attorney general's office said authorities raided a home known as "La Gran Familia" (The Big Family) in the western city of Zamora, following at least 50 complaints about its operators.

The refuge was home to 278 boys, 174 girls and six infants ranging up to the age of three, besides 138 adults aged up to  40, the government said.

Some complaints accused Verduzco of keeping children in the refuge against their will, said Tomas Zeron, director of the attorney general's criminal investigation unit.

The children had to beg for money on the streets, eat unsanitary food and sleep on the floor among bugs, the officials said. Some suffered sexual abuse, the government said.

Babies born in the refuge were registered as children of Verduzco and their parents were given no say in their upbringing, Zeron added.

La Gran Familia was founded in 1947 and looks after children abandoned by troubled parents, the refuge says on its Facebook page. It also provides schooling for the children.

Its funding came from charitable donations, as well as companies and the government, it said on Facebook. No one could be reached at the refuge via a number on the page.

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