Mamoudou Gassama, the Malian migrant “Spiderman” who saved a child hanging off a balcony by scaling an apartment block with his bare hands, received French residency Tuesday, the first step towards citizenship promised by President Emmanuel Macron.
After receiving a resident’s permit from local authorities, the 22-year-old, who had been living illegally in France since September, signed a contract to carry out an internship with the Paris fire service.
The family of a small boy found hanging from a balcony in Paris have expressed heartfelt thanks to the Malian migrant who saved him.
“He’s truly a hero,” the boy’s grandmother said of Mamoudou Gassama, who climbed four floors before a crowd of well-wishers to pluck the child from danger.
The four-year-old’s father, who had allegedly left him in their flat to go shopping, and then stayed out longer than planned to play Pokemon Go, faces charges of child neglect.
The daring rescue, which has earned him the nickname of Spider-Man, saw Mr Gassama become an overnight national hero and he was offered French citizenship.
President Emmanuel Macron awarded him a medal for bravery after inviting him to the Elysée Palace on Monday and offered him a job in the fire brigade.
“Thank you France. That’s all I can say,” said Mr Gassama after coming out of the state prefecture in of Bobigny, north or Paris, where he was handed a residency permit while awaiting full citizenship.
It transpires that the boy had left Réunion, the French Indian Ocean island, where his mother and grandmother live, only three weeks ago for Paris to join his father, who works in the capital. His mother and the couple’s second child were due to join them in June.
The boy had already fallen one or two floors before somehow managing to grab hold of the fourth-floor balcony, as he is said to have pointed upwards when a resident in the neighboring fourth-floor flat asked where he came from.
His mother told Antenne Réunion that the boy’s father had little experience looking after him on his own and that this was not the first time he had left him alone.
“I can’t justify what my husband did. People will say it could have happened to anyone and it has happened to other people. My son was just lucky,” she said.
Speaking of Mr Gassama’s act, she said: “If I were to meet him, I think I would say what everyone is saying: thank you, thank you!” “At any rate, I wouldn’t have been able to go one better than the president. He has been recompensed for his act.”
There have been questions over why a man on the balcony of the neighbouring fourth-floor flat couldn’t simply pull him to safety.
But the neighbour told Le Parisien that he could only hold the boy’s hand but not pull him up because there was a divider separating the two balconies and he feared dropping him.
“I didn’t want to take the risk of letting go of his hand, I thought it better to do things step by step,” he said.
The child had been wearing a Spiderman outfit, he said, and was bleeding from his toe and had a torn nail.
The boy was briefly taken into care by French authorities while police questioned his father, who was reportedly devastated, but social services concluded that the child risked no further imminent danger so gave him back custody.
However, the father faces charges of failing in one’s legal duty as a parent, punishable by a maximum two years in prison and a fine of €30,000 (£26,000).
His mother is also due to be interviewed by social workers in Réunion.
As for Mr Gassama, the 22-year-old left his native Mali in West Africa as a teenager in 2013, according to Le Monde.
He crossed the Sahara desert through Burkina Faso, Niger and Libya and then traversed the Mediterranean to Italy in 2014 at his second attempt. His first bid failed when he was intercepted at sea by police.
He told Mr Macron that he had travelled to France because he did not know anyone in Italy and his brother had been living in France for many years.
According to Le Figaro, he has been living in squalid migrant lodgings in Montreuil, east of Paris, with three brothers and several cousins.