Mali migrant 'hero' to get France citizenship for daring child rescue

AFP
Mamoudou Gassama leaped into action on seeing a 4-year-old child dangling in mid-air from a balcony half-way up an apartment block in the multi-ethnic 18th district of Paris.
AFP

A Malian migrant who scaled a four-story Paris apartment bloc with his bare hands to save a child was honored by French President Emmanuel Macron Monday and offered citizenship.

Two days after his daring Spiderman-style rescue — viewed millions of times online — Mamoudou Gassama was received by Macron at the presidential palace.

“You have become an example because millions of people have seen you. It is only right that the nation be grateful,” Macron told the 22-year-old, adding that his immigration status would be “put in order.”

During the meeting, Macron also proposed that Gassama, who received a medal and certificate for bravery, join the French fire service.

“I was not thinking of anything. I went straight up,” the sporty youth, who wore jeans and a short-sleeved patterned shirt, explained.

“Bravo,” Macron replied.

The act of heroism, which was the top news item for most French websites and television channels, comes as French lawmakers debate a controversial bill that would speed up the deportation of economic migrants and failed asylum-seekers.

Gassama has been living illegally in France and working in construction after arriving in September last year following a perilous journey from his homeland to Libya then Italy.

Macron, a centrist, has taken a tough line on economic migrants fleeing poverty rather than refugees escaping war or persecution. But Gassama’s “exceptional act of heroism” warranted an “exceptional decision,” he said Monday.

Gassama leaped into action on Saturday evening on seeing a 4-year-old child dangling in mid-air from a balcony half-way up an apartment block in the multi-ethnic 18th district of the French capital.

AFP

French President Emmanuel Macron (left) speaks with Mamoudou Gassama, 22, from Mali, at the presidential Elysee Palace in Paris, on May, 28, 2018.

The video shows him pulling himself up from balcony to balcony as a man on the fourth floor tries to hold on to the child by leaning across from a neighboring balcony.

Firefighters arrived at the scene to find the child, whose parents were not at home, had already been rescued. “Luckily, there was someone who was physically fit and had the courage to go and get the child,” a fire service spokesman said.

The boy’s father, who had reportedly gone out to the shop, has been taken into custody for leaving the child unattended.

The boy’s mother was not in Paris at the time. The child has been placed in state care.

Gassama’s story instantly drew comparisons with that of another Malian migrant who was feted as a hero, and given citizenship, for helping save lives during a January 2015 terror attack.

Lassana Bathily helped hide hostages in the freezer during a jihadist attack on a Jewish supermarket in Paris, in which four people were killed.


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