Outcry as French mayor resigns after far-right attacks
The resignation of a French mayor targeted by the far right over plans to move an asylum-seekers' centre prompted a political outcry Thursday after he faced death threats and an arson attack on his home.
The resignation of Yannick Morez, mayor of Saint-Brevin-les-Pins in western France, comes as support for the far right swells and mainstream parties seek to channel anti-immigration sentiment in an increasingly tense political environment.
Morez said late Wednesday he was stepping down "for personal reasons" -- while complaining of "a lack of support from the state".
President Emmanuel Macron on Twitter described the attacks against him as "outrageous" and expressed his "solidarity" with Morez and his family.
"What has happened is very shocking, and I want to assure the mayor of my full support," Prime Minister Elisabeth Borne said Thursday during a visit to French Indian Ocean territory La Reunion.
She added that she wanted to "protect mayors better... intervene sooner to support them, to identify their difficulties and back them up better".
Saint-Brevin, a seaside town at the mouth of the Loire river near the western city of Nantes, has been racked for months by protests against plans to move existing asylum accommodation to a site close to a primary school.
The town has hosted migrants since the so-called Jungle camp near Calais on France's north coast was dismantled in 2016.
Morez said in March that there had "never been the slightest problem" with asylum seekers in the years they had been hosted in his town.
But beyond repeated demonstrations organised by far-right party Reconquete (Reconquest) led by former presidential candidate Eric Zemmour against the move, Morez's home was targeted in an arson attack on March 22 that is the subject of a criminal investigation.
Socialist Party chief Olivier Faure posted on Twitter that "it's shameful that the state did not grasp the scale of what was happening to him and did not back him up. It's shameful to continue normalising the far right."
MPs from the far-right National Rally (RN) of Marine Le Pen did not join other lawmakers in standing to pay their respects to Morez following his resignation on Wednesday.
The re-branded former National Front, whose policies still in large part centre on hostility to Islam and immigration, is riding high in the polls.
Recent surveys suggest its figurehead Le Pen would beat Macron if there were a re-run today of last year's election run-off.
Meanwhile, Macron's ministers are racing with the conservative Republicans party to bring new immigration bills before France's National Assembly lower house, in which no party has a majority.