Spain grants residency to migrant who saved disabled man

Nearly 90,000 people signed a petition hailing Gorgui Lamine Sow (above) as a “model citizen”.
Nearly 90,000 people signed a petition hailing Gorgui Lamine Sow (above) as a “model citizen”.PHOTO: REUTERS

MADRID (AFP) - Spain on Friday (Jan 3) granted residency to an undocumented migrant from Senegal who was hailed as a hero after he rescued a disabled man from a burning building last month.

Gorgui Lamine Sow, a 20-year-old street vendor who arrived in Spain in 2017, was walking down a street in Denia on Spain's eastern Mediterranean coast on Dec 6 when he heard screams and saw smoke pouring from a first-floor window.

He climbed the iron bars of the front door before entering the burning apartment from the balcony, and then emerged with the man who uses a walker slung over his shoulder, carrying him down a ladder that had been set up by a neighbour.

Denia city hall quickly asked Spain's central government to give Sow a residents permit, a request backed by nearly 90,000 people who signed a petition hailing him as a "model citizen".

Spain's labour and immigration ministry said on Friday it had granted Sow residency in recognition of his "act of courage and service to the community".

Sow told Spanish media that he lives in a crowded room in the seaside town of Gandia with his partner and their seven-month-old daughter, and travels 40km by bus every day to Denia to sell bracelets and necklaces on the streets, a common job for undocumented migrants in Spain.

"I am poor. But I am also strong and can help. I don't like to see people suffer. There was smoke and fire. But you can't be afraid. There was a person inside and I had to get him out," he told the local daily newspaper Levante-El Mercantil Valenciano last month.

His case has been compared to that of migrant Mamoudou Gassama from Mali who in May 2018 scaled a Paris apartment block to save a boy dangling from a fourth-floor balcony.

He was granted French nationality later that year and taken on as a trainee by the Paris fire service.