MADRID (AFP) - An African boy found hidden in a suitcase that was smuggled across the border into Spain has been granted temporary permission to stay so he can be reunited with his mother, officials said Thursday.
Police found eight-year-old Adou Ouattara on May 7 curled up and covered by blankets inside a suitcase without air vents at a border checkpoint in Ceuta, one of two Spanish enclaves in North Africa.
The suitcase was being taken through a pedestrian border crossing by a 19-year-old woman, whose identity has not been released, when a border security scanner detected the boy inside.
A picture of the boy curled up in the suitcase served as a shocking reminder of the lengths migrants take to try to seek a better life in Europe.
Several hours after the youngster was detected his father, Ali Ouattara, was arrested at the same border crossing on charges of human rights abuse, for trying to have the boy smuggled into the country.
The man, who is from the Ivory Coast, lives legally with the boy's mother and sister on Spain's Canary Islands, but his son lacked permission to join them there because the family's income was deemed too low.
Immigration authorities have now granted the boy authorisation to live in Spain for one year "for extraordinary reasons" allowed for under the law, a spokesman for the central government representative in Ceuta said.
The boy has been staying at a centre for underage migrants in Ceuta and he can now be turned over to his mother once DNA tests ordered by a judge prove that they are biologically related.
At the same time a Spanish court ruled that the boy's father will remain in custody while the case is investigated because of the possible risk that he may flee.
Ali Ouattara's lawyer Juan Isidro Fernandez Diaz has said his client did not know the boy would be smuggled in a suitcase, believing that he would cross the border with his Ivory Coast passport and that a visa would be bought.
Thousands of migrants each year risk their lives trying to enter Ceuta and another Spanish territory bordering Morocco, Melilla, in search of a better life in Europe.
Many Africans try to scramble over the 7m-high fences that separate the Spanish cities from Morocco.
Others smuggle themselves over the border hidden in vehicles and cargo, or try to swim or sail from shores on the Moroccan side.