Roma baby at centre of racism row in France is finally buried

The story has highlighted discrimination against France's 20,000 Roma residents

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The Independent Online

A baby Roma girl denied burial by her local mayor has finally been laid to rest in the French town of Wissous.

The girl, Maria Francesca, was two months old when she died over Christmas of apparent sudden infant death syndrome.

Local authorities in Champlan refused to allow the girl's family to bury their child, but Mayor Richard Trinquier of Wissous, a town nearby, offered them an alternative site.

According to reports, Christian Leclerc, the conservative mayor of Champlan, just south of Paris, refused to bury the child at the municipal cemetery on grounds that it has "few available plots". BFM-TV also reported that Leclerc told the press that graves in his jurisdiction were reserved for taxpayers.

However, Trinquier said there had been an administrative mix-up and that Leclerc was being unfairly criticised.

Trinquier told AFP, "An administrative confusion led to the authorities saying they don't have space. It was not his (Leclerc's) decision at all. I spoke to him on the phone after it came out in this way. As you know, I agreed straightaway when asked if the child could be buried in Wissous. I didn't hestiate. it seemed so straightforward.

"There were very harsh words said against him and a misunderstanding that he didn't desrve. I think if he'd really known the true story, he would have reacted in the same I'm responding. I have absolutely no grievance with him."

Under the heavy criticism, Mayor Leclerc later denied ever refusing a burial site. A top government official said he would investigate.

Prime Minister Manuel Valls tweeted that the refusal to bury the child was an insult to the girl's memory as well as an insult to France.

News that the child was refused burial in Champlan sparked outrage from humanitarian associations, particularly those who help France's approximately 20,000 Roma.

Marie-Helene Brelaud, of the Solidarity With Roma Families Association, said: "The parents told us this is racism. They were incredulous."

The infant's parents live in a camp lacking basic amenities such as running water, like many Roma in France.

Roma presence in the country has become a political issue. Last year a French MP avoided jail after he was caught on camera saying “Hitler maybe didn't kill enough of them” during an altercation with a Roma community.

Mass evictions and violence against Roma and their camps run high. In 2012, a camp of 200 people at La Courneuve, north of Paris, was burned down.