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French MP accused of racist remarks in Parliament

PARIS — A far-right lawmaker in France came under fire on Thursday after responding to a black lawmaker’s question about migrants stranded at sea by apparently saying, “Let them go back to Africa.”

Grégoire de Fournas of the National Rally made this comment to the National Assembly. The president of the lower house of the French parliament, Yaël Braun-Pivet, then suspended the legislative session.

De Fournas spoke as Carlos Martens Bilongo of the left-wing France Unbowed party challenged the centrist government of French President Emmanuel Macron over a maritime rescue boat that carries hundreds of passengers in the Mediterranean Sea and failed to receive assigned port to bring them. Charities helping migrants have appealed to the French government to welcome them or help them find a solution. The French authorities have not yet responded.

Braun-Pivet said the comment in parliament would be investigated on Friday.

The National Rally is renowned for its strong anti-immigrant rhetoric. Party spokesman Victor Chabert said de Fournas was referring to migrants at sea in his remark on Africa and not, as some French media speculated, to his fellow lawmaker. Some claimed that Fournas only said “return to Africa” ​​because the beginning of his sentence was muffled.

Fournas has since emailed Martens Bilongo in an attempt to defuse tensions.

Reacting to the event, French Prime Minister Elisabeth Borne said “racism has no place in our democracy”.

She said the chamber “should take action” on de Fournas’ remark without specifying what it might be.

National Rally leader Marine Le Pen lost her second bid for the French presidency to Macron in April.


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