A Roma baby girl who died Dec. 26 in Champlan, a suburb south of Paris, has been denied burial there by the town’s mayor, the BBC reported. The child, who reportedly died of sudden infant death syndrome, lived with her family in a camp in Champlan. She was 3 months old.
Le Parisien reported Champlan Mayor Christian Leclerc denied the baby burial in the local municipal cemetery because it had “few available plots,” Al Jazeera reported. “Priority is given to those who pay local taxes,” Leclerc told Le Parisien, saying spaces are very expensive.
Richard Trinquier, the mayor of nearby town of Wissous, offered a burial plot for the infant and called Champlan’s decision “incomprehensible.” He said he did not want to worsen the family’s grief. "The pain of a mother who carried a child for nine months, and lost her after 2 1/2months must not be worsened,” he told AFP.
Critics are calling the action by Champlan’s mayor racist. “It’s racism, xenophobia and stigmatization,” said Loic Gandais, the president of a group that helps Roma families in France.
Parents of the baby, known only as Maria Francesca, are originally from Romania and have lived in France for at least eight years. They, along with other Roma families in Champlan, live on two plots of land that lack running water and electricity.
There are about 20,000 members of the Roma minority living in makeshift settlements in France where they face poverty and persecution. The BBC said the country has instituted harsh policies against Eastern European immigrants, such as demolishing their camps and deportation.
The news comes just after French President Francois Hollande’s New Year’s Eve speech in which he vowed to fight racism. “I am making the fight against racism a national priority,” he said Wednesday.