Lazy eyes listen
The National Assembly of France has banned a far-right MP for 15 days for yelling “they should go back to Africa” as a black colleague discussed immigration.
According to Grégoire de Fournas of National Rally (RN), his remark was not directed at Carlos Martens Bilongo, but rather at migrants attempting to reach Europe by sea.
Mr. Bilongo stated that he was born in France and that the remark was “shameful.”
On Friday, MPs voted to suspend him and deduct half of his salary.
The decision is described as the Assembly’s harshest sanction.
Mr Bilongo had been questioning the government about a request by the non-governmental organization SOS Méditerranée for assistance in finding a port for 234 migrants rescued at sea in recent days.
The exact meaning of the National Rally MP’s remark is debatable, because he could have been referring to more than one person. His off-mic remark was recorded as Qu’il retourne en Afrique – “he should go back to Africa” – but the plural Qu’ils retournent en Afrique sounds exactly the same.
The Speaker, Yal Braun-Pivet, demanded to know who had spoken after Mr de Fournas made his remark. Then, as MPs chanted “Out! Out! Out!” she called a halt to the proceedings, declaring, “This is not possible.”
Mr Bilongo, a member of the left-wing France Unbowed (LFI), stated: “Today it’s all about the color of my skin. I was born in France and am a French Member of Parliament.” There was “no room for racism,” Prime Minister Elisabeth Borne said, and Interior Minister Gérald Darmanin said the MP should resign.
Mr de Fournas insisted he was referring to the “boat transporting migrants to Europe,” and party leader Marine Le Pen accused her political opponents of inventing a hysterical uproar.
He later apologized to Mr Bilongo for “the misunderstanding” his comments had caused, as well as any hurt they had caused.
LFI leader Jean-Luc Mélenchon said the MP’s remarks were “beyond intolerable” and that he should be expelled from the National Assembly.
Immigration was a major theme in the RN’s presidential and parliamentary election campaigns this year, with party leader Marine Le Pen proposing a referendum on major immigration cuts if she were elected president.
In the June parliamentary election, the party more than tenfold increased its presence in the National Assembly, winning 89 seats.