- France - Overseas France - politics - racism
AFP - The official charged with overseeing efforts to appease racially-charged tension in one of France's Indian Ocean territories has been suspended following allegations of racism, officials said Friday.
The interior ministry said that Paul Girot de Langlade, the coordinator of a political peace process on the island of Reunion, had been suspended pending an inquiry into a charge that he insulted airport security personnel.
According to a judicial official, Girot was stopped by security staff and asked to empty his pockets when a metal detector buzzer sounded after he disembarked from a flight at Orly airport outside Paris on July 31.
"You'd think we were in Africa. In any case, there are only blacks here," he is alleged to have replied, according to the official.
Magistrates have ordered police to open an inquiry into allegations of "public insults of a racial character", the official added.
In a statement, Interior Minister Brice Hortefeux said: "I will never tolerate racist or discriminatory speech in our country, especially by a state official of any kind. This behaviour violates the values of our republic."
Reunion, an island in the Indian Ocean with a racially mixed population, was earlier this year one of three French overseas territories hit by strikes and sometimes unruly protests over alleged economic discrimination.
Following the crisis, de Langlade, a prefect or senior state official, was charged with coordinating an "estates general" at which representatives of the community, employers and the state can discuss their grievances.