French lawmaker accused of racist comment in Parliament

PARIS (AP) — A far-right lawmaker in France was criticized Thursday after he responded to a Black lawmaker's question about migrants stranded at sea by saying, “Let them return to Africa.”

Gregoire de Fournas of the National Rally party made the comment in the National Assembly. The president of the lower house of the French Parliament, Yaël Braun-Pivet, subsequently suspended the legislative session.

De Fournas spoke while Carlos Martens Bilongo of the leftist France Unbowed party was challenging French President Emmanuel Macron’s centrist government over a maritime rescue boat that is carrying hundreds of passengers in the Mediterranean Sea and not received an assigned port.

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

National Rally has a reputation for strong anti-immigrant rhetoric. Party spokesman Victor Chabert said de Fournas was referring to migrants at sea in his Africa remark and not, as some in French media wondered, to his fellow lawmaker.

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

She said the chamber “will have to take sanctions" over de Fournas' remark without elaborating what those sanctions might be.

National Rally's leader, Marine Le Pen, lost her bid for the French presidency to Macron for a second time in April.

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The Associated Press