PARIS (AP) – The French official charged with ensuring rights said on Sunday he will investigate the alleged refusal of a mayor to allow an infant Roma to be buried in his community – despite the mayor’s denial.
Jacques Toubon, the state’s defender of rights, said on Europe 1 radio that as of Monday he would seek information from all parties.
The infant girl, reportedly born in October, is to be buried Monday morning in Wissous, neighbouring the town of Champlan, just south of Paris, where her parents live in a camp with other Roma, also known as Gypsies. The baby died a day after Christmas of sudden infant death syndrome after being rushed to a hospital.
Champlan Mayor Christian Leclerc denied earlier Sunday that he ever refused a burial site for the child in the local cemetery. “I would like this masquerade … to stop immediately,” Leclerc said on BFM-TV.
Reports of his refusal to give the infant a resting place have caused outrage. The presence of some 20,000 Roma in France, most living in makeshift camps in deplorable conditions, is a sensitive topic in France and a hot political issue. Roma, from eastern Europe, are European citizens.
Prime Minister Manuel Valls said on Twitter that a refusal to bury the infant is “an injury to what France is”.
Leclerc was quoted Wednesday in the daily Le Parisien as saying priority for the few available grave sites goes to those paying taxes. He now says there was confusion among town employees about his instructions before he went on vacation, “an error of understanding in the chain of decisions.” He said on the iTele TV station that “my thoughts are with the family”.
Mayor Richard Trinquier of nearby Wissous offered a gravesite.
Toubon said he was personally “stupefied” by the reported burial refusal, but said it was unclear whether, if true, there was an infraction of the law. The deceased have a right to be buried where they die, in the family grave or where they live, but whether a camp counts as a domicile is unclear.