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Mayor of Champlan Halts Burial of Roma Baby in his Town

Translated Monday 5 January 2015, by Gene Zbikowski

On Dec. 31, Christian Leclerc, the mayor (various right-wing parties) of Champlan, just south of Paris, rejected the burial in the town cemetery of a Roma infant that had died on Dec. 26. The family lives within the city limits.

Amid a lively argument, Christian Leclerc, the mayor (various right-wing parties) of Champlan, just south of Paris, denied on Jan. 4 that he had opposed the burial of a Roma baby in the town cemetery. “At no time did I oppose this burial. The story is a total fabrication,” he stated. “We had the choice [for the burial] between Corbeil and Champlan. I said OK on the morning of Dec. 31 for either of the scenarios,” he added. He believes that his response was incorrectly interpreted by the city administration.

The elected official, who has become the target of much criticism and has been accused of racism, thus contradicts the previous versions of events. “We don’t have much room available,” he had stated on Dec. 31 according to a report in Le Parisien newspaper. “Priority is given to those who pay their local taxes.”

Jacques Toubon, the ombudsman, stated on Jan. 4 on France Inter radio that he was shocked by the affair and said he was looking into the possibility of judicial proceedings.

“This is racism, xenophobia and stigmatization,” said Loïc Gandais, the president of the Association for Solidarity in the Essonne département with Roma and Romanian Families (ASEFRR), confirming the news in Le Parisien.

Little Maria Francesca, born on Oct. 14, 2014, died of sudden infant death syndrome in the night of Dec. 25-26.

The mother wanted to breast feed her at 5 a.m. and the little girl was cold. She was dead,” added Marie-Hélène Brelaud, a member of the ASEFRR, which has been working with the family for eight years.

The baby was then transported by the emergency services to a Corbeil-Essonnes hospital, where its death was officially registered on Dec. 26, she added. Two doctors explained to the family, in Mrs. Brelaud’s presence, that the baby had died of sudden infant death syndrome. The parents, who were “very affected emotionally,” have two boys, ages 5 and 9, who go to school in Champlan.

At the family’s request, a Corbeil-Essonnes funeral home requested authorization from the city administration to bury the infant in the Champlan cemetery.

But the mayor refused. He did not give “any explanation,” Julien Guenzi, the manager of the Lescarcelle funeral home in Corbeil, told Agence France Presse. “He isn’t obliged to give a justification, but answers like that are very rare,” he added.

Contacted by associations, the mayor of the town where the family lives claimed that the baby’s death had been registered in Corbeil-Essonnes in order to reject its burial in the cemetery closest to its parents place of residence.

The little girl was finally to be buried on Jan. 5 in Wissous, about seven kilometers (4.6 miles) from Champlan, following a funeral ceremony in Saint Paul’s church in Massy at 11 a.m.

The ASEFRR will assume the costs of the funeral, the family having bought the coffin, the association pointed out. The ASEFRR does not intend to file a complaint. “In moral terms, it’s absolutely debatable, but in legal terms, we won’t be able to do much,” Loïc Gandais said.

The law provides that the friends or family of a deceased person must request authorization for burial from the mayor of the town where the chosen cemetery is located. A deceased person may be buried in the town where he lived, the one where he died, or where a family vault is located. In any other case, the mayor can reject burial.

About 30 families, or around 80 people, occupy the ground in Champlan where the family lives. There is neither water, electricity nor garbage disposal. They officially reside at the Secours Catholique charity in the town of Les Ulis, the mayor having refused official residence of Roma families in his town.

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