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Mario Borghezio said Congolese-born Cecile Kyenge, who was recently appointed minister for integration, would be more suited to being a “housekeeper” or a low-level council official than a minister and claimed that she would impose African “tribal traditions” on Italy.
In remarks which were widely condemned in Italy, he said that Mrs Kyenge’s inclusion in the coalition of Enrico Letta, the newly-elected prime minister, made it a “bongo bongo” administration.
He said her appointment, which was hailed by many Italians as a positive step that reflected the changing face of Italian society, was “a shit choice”.
Mr Borghezio, a member of the xenophobic Northern League who has made incendiary remarks about immigrants in the past, was suspended from the right-wing Europe of Freedom and Democracy group in the European Parliament on Wednesday.
The suspension was driven by British MEPs from Nigel Farage’s party, who were angered and embarrassed by Mr Borghezio’s remarks.
“We have asked for him to be expelled from the group. So far he has been suspended,” a UKIP spokesman told The Daily Telegraph.
A source close to Mr Farage said the Italian MEP had been a “nightmare” to work with and that the party would be “glad to see the back of him”.
Mr Borghezio is a deeply controversial figure who has in the past praised Col Gadaffi as a “great leader” and was found guilty of arson after setting fire to pallets belonging to some immigrants who were living beneath a bridge in Turin.
Increasingly influential in British politics, UKIP is keen to distance itself from the sorts of racist views espoused by right-wing partners like Mr Borghezio.
“Our British colleagues were indignant and called for him to go. That’s why there was a request for his suspension, and Borghezio did not oppose it,” Francesco Speroni, the joint head of the group, told Corriere della Sera newspaper.
Mr Borghezio may end up being expelled altogether — his fate will be decided during the next session of the parliament in Strasbourg in mid-June.
His expulsion would require the assent of a two-thirds majority of the political grouping.
He came close to being kicked out two years ago when he appeared to justify the bombing and mass shooting carried out by Anders Behring Breivik in Oslo, saying that Norway’s “multiracial society” was to blame.
He had been warned by UKIP officials that if he made one more gaffe, he would face expulsion.
Mrs Kyenge, 48, an eye surgeon who was born in the Democratic Republic of Congo but moved to Italy 30 years ago, has been subjected to a tirade of racial abuse since her appointment.
Much of it has circulated on the internet, with the minister, who is a member of the centre-Left Democratic Party, called “a Congolese monkey” and a “Zulu” on websites, some of them with links to neo-Fascist groups.
Mr Borghezio was by far the most high-profile figure to attack the new minister.
“Africans are different. They belong to an ethnicity much different from ours. They haven’t produced great genes,” he said.
In response to his comments, an online petition was launched in Italy calling for his expulsion from the European Parliament.
Organised by Articolo 21, a freedom of information advocacy group, it gathered more than 130,000 signatures and was sent to Martin Schultz, the president of the European Parliament.