From Al Jazeera:
French mayor slammed over Roma burial denial
Paris suburb mayor accused of racism after refusal to allow baby of ethnic minority to be buried in municipal cemetery.
Last updated: 03 Jan 2015 23:28
The mayor of a Paris suburb has been accused of racism following his refusal to allow a Roma baby to be buried in the municipal cemetery.
Christian Leclerc, the mayor of Champlan, has 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 as saying.
Critics, however, believe his decision to refuse the nearly three-month-old girl a final resting place was motivated by anti-Roma sentiment.
“It’s racism, xenophobia, and stigmatisation,” Loic Gandais, president of an association helping Roma families in the region, said.
Gandais accused Leclerc of hiding behind the fact that the baby, identified only as Maria Francesca, was pronounced dead in another town.
The infant was rushed to hospital on December 26 in the nearby town of Corbeil-Essonnes, where she was declared dead from sudden infant death syndrome.
The child’s parents are Romanian natives who have lived in France for at least eight years, according to supporters. Their two other children are attending school in Champlan.
Faced with the mayor’s refusal, they have arranged for their daughter to be laid to rest on Monday in the town of Wissous, a few kilometres from Champlan.
Most of France’s roughly 20,000 Roma live in makeshift settlements with little or no access to basic amenities.
Successive governments have drawn fire for demolishing numerous camps and evicting families with children, although some in France have supported a tough approach.
Roma families in Champlan live on two plots of land without water or electricity.
Though many towns around Paris struggle to integrate Roma migrants some have been moved by the plight of Maria Francesca’s parents.
Explaining his offer to host the burial the conservative mayor of Wissous, Richard Trinquier, told AFP it was “a question 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.”
Translated from NOS TV in the Netherlands:
“How can they refuse this? It’s disgusting, unfair, inhumane. A Roma family feels as much pain as French parents at the loss of a child.”
From daily The Independent in Britain:
The row over Maria Francesca’s grave has coincided with another episode that points to the erosion of the barriers that once existed in France between the “mainstream” centre-right (including the heirs of Charles de Gaulle) and the far right FN (composed partly of the heirs of the collaborationist Vichy regime of 1940-44). Senior officials in the junior movements of both the FN and Mr Sarkozy’s UMP held a joint celebration on New Year’s Eve and posted selfies on the internet.
The UMP demanded an explanation from party members. Former President Sarkozy took over the leadership of the party again in November. He plans to move the UMP to the right on issues such as immigration – but to refuse all dealings with the Front National.