French Lawmaker Suspended Over Comment Go ‘Back To Africa’
French leftist La France Insoumise (LFI) party Member of Parliament Carlos Martens Bilongo (L) arrives in Paris, on November 4, 2022, for a National Assembly session which resumes after being suspended, one day after a far-right MP was accused of yelling “back to Africa” to him, posing a question on migrant arrivals to the government. (Photo by Alain JOCARD / AFP)
France’s National Assembly voted Friday to sanction a far-right MP with a rare 15-day suspension and pay cut after he yelled “back to Africa” at a black colleague, a clash that drew outrage across the political spectrum.
Gregoire de Fournas, a newly elected member of the National Rally, has denied any personal racist attack in the outburst, saying he was referring to a ship carrying rescued migrants in the Mediterranean.
The incident came as tensions over immigration are running high, with President Emmanuel Macron’s government promising a new crackdown amid accusations of failing to stem new arrivals or deport those whose residency requests are denied.
Carlos Martens Bilongo of the leftist France Unbowed party (LFI) was questioning the government Thursday on the request by the SOS Mediterranee NGO for Paris’s help in finding a port for the ship that rescued 234 migrants at sea in recent days.
The punishment comes as the RN prepares to vote Saturday on a successor to its leader Marine Le Pen, who backed her MP on Twitter by saying “the controversy created by our political opponents is obvious and will not fool the French people”.
While acknowledging a “gaffe” by de Fournas, she told journalists Friday that “if a comment that lacks finesse justifies a suspension from parliament, there’s room for plenty of others” in the assembly.
Bilongo responded by telling BFM television that “I have always been deeply convinced the RN is racist, and this only proves it once again.”