Hero who saved child to be given French citizenship

French President Emmanuel Macron speaking with Mr Gassama at the Elysee Palace in Paris yesterday. Mr Macron said it was only right that France be grateful for the young man's heroic act.
French President Emmanuel Macron speaking with Mr Gassama at the Elysee Palace in Paris yesterday. Mr Macron said it was only right that France be grateful for the young man's heroic act.PHOTO: AGENCE FRANCE-PRESSE
French President Emmanuel Macron speaking with Mr Gassama at the Elysee Palace in Paris yesterday. Mr Macron said it was only right that France be grateful for the young man's heroic act.
Mr Mamoudou Gassama climbing a four-storey apartment block in Paris to save a child dangling precariously from a balcony, in this series of screengrabs. The video has been viewed millions of times online. PHOTOS: YOUTUBE
French President Emmanuel Macron speaking with Mr Gassama at the Elysee Palace in Paris yesterday. Mr Macron said it was only right that France be grateful for the young man's heroic act.
Mr Mamoudou Gassama climbing a four-storey apartment block in Paris to save a child dangling precariously from a balcony, in this series of screengrabs. The video has been viewed millions of times online. PHOTOS: YOUTUBE
French President Emmanuel Macron speaking with Mr Gassama at the Elysee Palace in Paris yesterday. Mr Macron said it was only right that France be grateful for the young man's heroic act.
Mr Mamoudou Gassama climbing a four-storey apartment block in Paris to save a child dangling precariously from a balcony, in this series of screengrabs. The video has been viewed millions of times online. PHOTOS: YOUTUBE

Malian migrant who scaled building praised by French President for 'exceptional act'

PARIS • A Malian migrant who scaled a four-storey Paris apartment block with his bare hands to save a child was honoured by French President Emmanuel Macron and offered citizenship.

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

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

During the meeting, Mr Macron also proposed that Mr 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 athletic youth explained. "I saved the child and then went inside the building and I was shaking."

"Bravo," Mr Macron replied. "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."

Mr Gassama had leapt into action on seeing a four-year-old child dangling in midair from a balcony half-way up an apartment block in the multi-ethnic 18th district of the French capital.

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

Firefighters arrived at the scene to find that the child, whose parents were not at home, had already been rescued. The boy's father has been taken into custody and was to be brought before prosecutors yesterday.

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

His act of heroism was the top news item for most French websites and television channels. It came as French lawmakers debate a controversial Bill that would speed up the deportation of economic migrants and failed asylum-seekers.

Mr Macron, a centrist, has taken a tough line on economic migrants, but he said yesterday Mr Gassama's "exceptional act of heroism" warranted an "exceptional decision".

Mr Gassama, who was accompanied to the Elysee Palace by his older brother, said of his award: "I'm pleased because it's the first time I've received a trophy like that."

The youth was made an honorary citizen of the eastern suburb of Montreuil, where he has been living in a hostel for migrants.

His story drew instant comparisons with another Malian migrant. Mr Lassana Bathily was feted as a hero, and given citizenship, for helping hide hostages in the freezer during an extremist attack on a Jewish supermarket in Paris, in which four people were killed, in January 2015.

AGENCE FRANCE-PRESSE

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A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on May 29, 2018, with the headline 'Hero who saved child to be given French citizenship'. Print Edition | Subscribe