Wearing the burqa — the traditional female covering for Muslim women — is “contrary” to French values, Immigration Minister Eric Besson said in an interview Sunday.

The remarks come just under a week after three Afghans were deported from France back to Kabul, and Besson has once again sparked the outrage of French opposition members with his claims that French culture is being lost on immigrants.

“I want to launch a major debate over national values and identity,” Besson said in an interview quoted by Radio France Internationale. Besson asserts that immigrants should have a certain understanding of the French language, the country's history and French culture “to reaffirm the values of identity and the pride of being French,” Besson said.

Besson called the burqa “inacceptable” in France, but stopped short of calling for a public ban of the garment.

Besson defended the country's decision to deport three undocumented Afghan immigrants last week, and said that he will continue the country's hard-line approach to illegal immigrants to the country.

France has already deported 21,000 undocumented immigrants in 2009.