Editions:  Austria · Denmark · France · Germany · Italy · Norway · Spain · Sweden · Switzerland
Advertisement

Paris: Who is 'le spiderman' - the Malian migrant who saved a toddler's life?

Share this article

Paris: Who is 'le spiderman' - the Malian migrant who saved a toddler's life?
Mamoudou Gassama. Photo: Screenshot/BFM TV
14:19 CEST+02:00
Who is Mamoudou Gassama, the young Malian immigrant who scaled the facade of a building in Paris to save a toddler's life, earning him praise, a meeting with the president and French citizenship.
Who is he?
 
Mamoudou Gassama is a 22-year-old undocumented immigrant who carried out a spectacular rescue of a four-year-old who was dangling from a balcony in Paris. 
 
His act of bravery which took place at around 8 pm on Saturday in northern Paris, was captured on film and viewed millions of times on social networks.
 
Film of the rescue shows Gassama pulling himself up from balcony to balcony with his bare hands as a man on the fourth floor tries to hold on to the child by leaning across from a neighbouring balcony.
 
On reaching the fourth floor Gassama puts one leg over the balcony before reaching out with his right arm and grabbing the child.
 
 
Where's he from?
 
The actions were undoubtedly a staggering feat of courage but it was perhaps nothing compared to what he previously endured on his journey from his home country of Mali to France which saw him pass through war-torn Libya. 
 
"I left Mali a long time ago, passing through Burkina-Faso and Nigeria," he told French news channel BFM TV. "It was very difficult."
 
Eventually Gassama arrived in Italy after taking a boat from Libya. 
 
"It was terrible on the boat," he said. "There were many of us, a lot of people."
 
Gassama arrived in France in September 2017. He lives in a hostel in Montreuil, a suburb to the south west of Paris. He had travelled to the 18th arrondissement of Paris on Saturday and just happened to be by the building by chance after hearing all the commotion and people shouting.
 
What did he say about the rescue?
 
Tracked down by reporters 24 hours after the heroic rescue, Gassama said he had acted without thinking.
 
"I saw all these people shouting, and cars sounding their horns. I climbed up like that and, thank God, I saved the child," he said.
 
"I felt afraid  when I saved the child... (when) we went into the living room, I started to shake, I could hardly stand up, I had to sit down," he added.
 
 
What has the reaction been in France?
 
Apart from the reaction on Twitter, where people have hailed his bravery, Paris mayor Anne Hidalgo praised the young migrant on Twitter for his "act of bravery" as well as phoning him personally to "thank him warmly".
 
"He explained to me that he had arrived from Mali a few months ago dreaming of building his life here.
 
"I told him that his heroic act is an example to all citizens and that the city of Paris will obviously be very keen to support him in his efforts to settle in France," she added.
 
The young Malian will next be honoured for his brave rescue by French President Emmanuel Macron who invited him to the Elysee Palace on Monday morning (see below).
 
Diaby, Mamoudou's brother who was also interviewed on BFM TV said that they would bring up the subject of their status in France during their meeting with Macron. 
 
"We would like to have a proper status here, to work in good conditions in France. Then as soon as you have a job you need housing, to have a good life," he said.
 
"Today he lives in a foyer (hostel), it is a very serious situation because there is no space, but we make do. Anyway, we make the most of the situation and ask."
 
The act of bravery by an immigrant has also provoked a political row about immigration in France.
 
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.
 
Macron, a centrist, has taken a tough line on economic migrants fleeing poverty rather than refugees escaping war or persecution.
 
Plenty of people have been quick to point out to the likes of Marine Le Pen and those in her far right National Front party, exactly what immigrants can bring to France.
 
Those on the far right however have rubbished the idea that his Gassama's act of bravery should be used to distract from the migrant crisis in France.
 
A senior member of the anti-immigration National Front, Nicolas Bay, said however that while the party supported Gassama receiving French papers all other illegal migrants should be summarily deported.
 
But in a warning to other African migrants he said he "can not give (papers) to all those who come from Mali or Burkina Faso" -- two of the countries from where thousands of migrants set out each year for Europe on a perilous journey across the desert and Mediterranean Sea.
 
Hero Malian immigrant who saved dangling child to get French citizenship
 
 
What did Macron do?
 
In his meeting with Macron on Monday, Gassama told the French president of his experience. 
 
"I was trembling, I couldn't believe it," he said. 
 
Macron asked what condition the child had been in once he'd been rescued. 
 
"He was crying, his feet were hurt" said Gassama, adding that he had seen the toddler since the incident.
 
"Bravo," replied the president. 
 
"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."
 
Confirming to Gassama that he would be made a French citizen, Macron said: "Even if you did not think about what you were doing it was an act of courage and strength that won the admiration of all."
 
During the meeting, Macron also proposed that Gassama, who received a medal and certificate for bravery, join the French fire service.
 
 
 
 
READ ALSO:

VIDEO: Paris 'spiderman' scales building to rescue dangling toddler

Get notified about breaking news on The Local

Share this article

Become a Member or sign-in to leave a comment.
Advertisement

From our sponsors

12 unexpected facts you probably didn't know about Iceland

Iceland has long been known as one of the most beautiful places in the world, but over the past few years it has also come to be viewed as a rather unusual hotbed of football talent. Here are 12 other things that you might not know about Iceland.

Advertisement
Advertisement
Advertisement
Advertisement
Advertisement
Advertisement
Advertisement