French far-right MP suspended after yelling ‘Go back to Africa’ as black MP spoke


A French far-right MP has been suspended from the country’s parliament for 15 days after shouting “return to Africa” as a black MP spoke.

Gregoire de Fournas, of the far-right National Rally party, was heard shouting the words "return to Africa" as MP Carlos Martens Bilongo was challenging the French government on Thursday about migrants stranded at sea.

Mr Bilongo said he was “deeply hurt" by the remark. The fifteen-day suspension for Mr de Fournas is the maximum allowed.

Mr de Fournas’ words prompted an outcry in the National Assembly, leading the legislative chamber’s president to suspend the session.

He insisted after his suspension that he was “innocent" and that it was "very unfair". He also insisted he was referring to Europe-bound migrants rescued at sea and not to his fellow MP.

"I fully stand by my comments about the anarchic migratory policies of our country," he tweeted Friday.

French anti-racist group, SOS Racisme, called it "the true face of the far-right: that of racism".

The group’s president, Dominique Sopo, said no matter what Mr de Fournas said exactly, “obviously, they are extremely violent comments".

Carlos Martens Bilongo at a demonstration in front of the National Assembly, (REUTERS)
Carlos Martens Bilongo at a demonstration in front of the National Assembly, (REUTERS)

Mr Bilongo, a member of the far-left France Unbowed party, took part in a gathering on Friday near the National Assembly called by his party in a show of support.

“I’m torn between joy and sadness," Mr Bilongo said. "Because I received many messages of support overnight ... because I see all these faces here showing solidarity with me."

He said he received thousands of messages following the incident from people telling him that they hear similar comments in their daily lives.

He praised the immediate reaction of anger shown by a large majority of MPs from across the political spectrum.

French President Emmanuel Macron was shocked by words he considered "unacceptable in or outside" the assembly, said his office.

French interior minister Gerald Darmanin also said he was "extremely shocked," telling BFM TV it was the first time in his 15 years of political life that he heard such "ignominious" words in parliament.

The National Rally is the party of far-right leader Marine Le Pen, who lost her third bid for the French presidency to Mr Macron in April.

However, France’s subsequent legislative election led to a major breakthrough for the party, which won 89 seats in the 577-member National Assembly, up from eight.

Ms Le Pen claimed that Mr de Fournas was “obviously speaking about the migrants transported in ships by NGOs".

“The controversy created by our political adversaries is gross and won’t deceive the French," she said.