Eric Zemmour, French Presidential Candidate, Wants to Deport Immigrants

Eric Zemmour, a far-right candidate for the French presidency, said Wednesday he would create a program to expel hundreds of thousands of immigrants from the country if elected.

Zemmour, 63, said he wants a "Ministry of Re-Immigration" to deport the immigrants. He also said he would meet with leaders in Algeria, Morocco and Tunisia—where 30 percent of France's immigrants come from—to negotiate the immigrants' return, Reuters reported.

Zemmour has been known for making inflammatory comments, with even a fellow far-right candidate calling his ideas "anti-republican," the Reuters report said. Zemmour's rise in popularity reflects what Politico calls a "pivot to the right" in France, although his anti-immigrant ideology might not be popular enough to win him the presidency.

Zemmour has fallen behind Marine Le Pen, another far-right candidate, in the polls, with Le Pen and French President Emmanuel Macron the front-runners in the election's first round, according to Reuters.

Describing his plan to speak to the North African leaders about sending immigrants back to their countries of origin, Zemmour said at a press conference that if the leaders refuse "we could seize" their homes in France and block foreigners from sending money through Western Union.

"I call those ways to put pressure," he added.

Zemmour has a long history of anti-immigrant sentiment and has three hate speech convictions. His most recent conviction, in January, was for inciting racial hatred when he called child migrants "thieves, killers [and] rapists."

Speaking on the crisis in Ukraine, Zemmour said Ukrainians with family ties to France should be given visas, but he did not say they should go to those fleeing violence in Middle East countries, France 24 reported.

"There are people who are like us and people who are unlike us," he said. "Everybody now understands that Arab or Muslim immigrants are too unlike us and that it is harder and harder to integrate them."

In the past, Zemmour had spoken in favor of a "Russian alliance" with France. He has called Russia "the most reliable ally, even more than the United States, Germany or Britain," though he has since condemned Russia's actions in Ukraine, France 24 reported. Since the Russian invasion, Zemmour's support has fallen by 3 to 4 percent in voter surveys, the report added.

There are also several sexual assault allegations against him and accusations of other inappropriate behaviors, Euractiv reported.

When Zemmour announced his candidacy for the French presidency last November, he released a video full of anti-immigrant and anti-Islam sentiments. It showed white people working as teachers and business leaders, with people of color lining up for food and living in tent cities.

Gérald Darmanin, Macron's interior minister, called the video "absolutely revolting."

Update 3/23/22 1:25 p.m. ET: This story was updated to add more information and background.

Zemmour Said He Wants to Deport Immigrants
French presidential candidate Eric Zemmour said he wants to deport thousands of immigrants. Above, Zemmour presents his political program during a press conference on Wednesday in Paris. Photo by Chesnot/Getty Images