A Roma baby at the middle of a human rights scandal has been buried in a French cemetery amid a row over the reported refusal by the mayor of a nearby town to grant her a grave.
The baby was laid to rest in Wissous, south of Paris, after the town of Champlan reportedly refused her burial.
The prime minister called it an “insult to France” and the French official in charge of defending human rights announced an inquiry.
The girl was born in mid-October and died on 26 December of sudden infant death syndrome.
The conservative mayor of Champlan, Christian Leclerc, was reported to have refused to bury her. He was quoted by Le Parisien newspaper as justifying the decision by saying that his town was running out of burial space and that “priority is given to those who pay local taxes”.
He has since strenuously denied this, saying he had been a victim of a misunderstanding, and had said the family could bury the baby in his town.
However, the family refused his offer.
According to Csilla Ducrocq, a member of the ASEFRR association that helps Roma, the mother “says that her heart has been ripped out” by the baby’s death.
“But she has nothing to say about the mayor. Just that she doesn’t understand,” Ducrocq said.
The Roma, a nomadic people whose ancestors left India centuries ago, have long suffered from discrimination and are frequently accused of carrying out petty crimes.
The European Union believes there are currently 10 to 12 million Roma throughout Europe, which makes them the largest minority on the continent.
The presence of Roma people from Eastern Europe has been a fractious political issue in France.
The country has one of the harshest policies in Europe towards Roma immigrants, regularly demolishing the camps that many of them live in, and deporting thousands every year.
The majority of France’s 20,000 Roma live in makeshift settlements. In fact the family in question live in a makeshift settlement on the outskirts of Champlan without electricity or running water, very close to Paris’s Orly airport.