France Offers Citizenship to Malian Immigrant Who Scaled Building to Save Child

May 28, 2018 Updated: September 27, 2018    

PARIS—France on Monday, May 28, offered citizenship to an illegal immigrant from Mali who scaled the facade of a Paris apartment block to save a boy who was about to fall from a fourth-floor balcony, President Emmanuel Macron said.

Video shows Mamoudou Gassama, 22, risking his life on Sunday as he climbed up the balconies to rescue the four-year-old who is clinging to a railing and glancing at the ground below, while horrified onlookers watched.

The video went viral and Gassama, who has been nicknamed “Spider-Man” for reaching the boy in the nick of time, was swiftly granted a meeting at the Elysee Palace.

“I did it because it was a child,” French newspaper Le Parisien quoted Gassama as saying. “I climbed …. Thank God I saved him.”

Macron congratulated Gassama for “an exceptional act” and said France would give him a job in the emergency services.

“We’ll obviously be setting all your papers straight and if you wish it, we will start the process of naturalization so that you can become French,” he added.

French President Emmanuel Macron (L) meets with Mamoudou Gassama, 22, from Mali, at the Elysee Palace in Paris, France on May 28, 2018. (Thibault Camus/Pool via Reuters)

Ministers said the citizenship process would be sped up, although Gassama can’t legally be granted it right away.

Gassama told Macron he tried to cross the Mediterranean in March 2014 to reach Italy, but was caught by police.

Adam Thiam, a Malian analyst and former presidential advisor told Reuters that Gassama’s act had been praised in his home country.

“There is great pride here in Mali,” Thiam said.

Gassama told Paris Mayor Anne Hidalgo by phone on Sunday he arrived from Mali a few months ago and wished to stay in France.

“I replied that his heroic gesture was an example for all citizens and that the City of Paris will obviously be keen to support him in his efforts to settle in France,” Hidalgo said.

The boy’s father was arrested and told police he had left his son alone to go shopping and returned home later than planned because he was playing Pokemon Go, an enhanced reality game, on his smartphone.

Gassama is being offered a spell of community service work at the Paris emergency services. An official website says the work pays about 480 euros ($558) a month for a fixed 11-month period.

By Bate Felix

 

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