Uproar in French parliament following racist 'back to Africa' outburst

© Emmanuel Dunand, AFP

A French parliament session was thrown into turmoil Thursday after a far-right MP was accused of yelling "back to Africa" to a black colleague posing a question on migrant arrivals to the government.

The incident came as President Emmanuel Macron's government is promising a new crackdown on immigration 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 on the request by the SOS Mediterranee NGO for Paris's help in finding a port for 234 migrants rescued at sea in recent days.

"They should go back to Africa!" interrupted Gregoire de Fournas, a newly elected member of the far-right, anti-immigration National Rally (RN).

The outburst sparked yells of condemnation, not least because in French the pronouns "he" and "they" are pronounced the same, suggesting that de Fournas might have been targeting Bilongo directly.

The RN is the party of far-right leader Marine Le Pen, who challenged Macron in this year's presidential vote and then led her party to its best-ever performance in subsequent legislative elections, with 89 MPs.

National Assembly speaker Yael Braun-Pivet suspended the session after demanding to know who had made the comment.


Read more on FRANCE 24 English

Read also:
'Many legal tools are available': Fighting sexual harassment in France today
Brigitte Giraud wins Goncourt Prize, France’s top literary award, for 'Vivre Vite' (Live Fast)
France hosts national tribute ceremony for artist Pierre Soulages