CHAMPLAN, France (AFP) – French offi-cials expressed shock and disgust Sunday after the mayor of a Paris suburb refused to allow the two-and-a-half month old baby of a Roma family to be buried in the municipal cemetery.
Christian Leclerc, the conservative mayor of Champlan, about 23 kilometres south of Paris, reportedly explained his refusal on the grounds that the cemetery has “few available plots”.
“Priority is given to those who pay their local taxes,” Leclerc was quoted by Le Parisien daily on Saturday as saying. He has not since been available for comment.
Laurence Rossignol, a junior govern-ment minister for the family, said on Twitter the refusal was “an inhumane humiliation” for the family, adding the hashtag #honte or “shame”.
And France’s defender of human rights, Jacques Toubon, said he was “shocked, stunned by the news”.
“It is clear there is a legal question in this case,” he told France Inter radio, adding he could “maybe take action” against any perceived discrimination.
The baby, identified only as Maria Fran-cesca, was born on October 14 and died
in the early hours of December 26.
“The mother tried to breastfeed her at 5am and the little girl was cold. She was dead,” said Marie-Helene Brelaud, a member of the ASEFRR association, which supports Roma families in the region.
Maria Francesca was rushed to hospital in nearby Corbeil-Essonnes, where she was pronounced dead from sudden infant death syndrome.
The family asked a burial firm in Corbeil-Essonnes to request permission from the authorities to lay the infant to rest but, according to the firm’s manager Julien Guenzi, the mayor refused “without explanation”.
“He doesn’t have to justify himself, but responses like that are very rare,” Guenzi told AFP.
Loic Gandais, president of ASEFRR, said it was “racism, xenophobia, and stigmatisation” and accused Leclerc of hiding behind the fact that the baby was pronounced dead in another town.
Maria Francesca is now expected to be buried on Monday in the town of Wissous, a few kilometres away.
Explaining his offer to host the burial, the conservative mayor of Wissous, Ri-chard Trinquier, told AFP it was “a ques-tion of humanity”.
“The pain of a mother who carried a child for nine months, and lost her after two and a half months must not be worsened.”