Mamoudou Gassama, an undocumented 22-year-old immigrant from Mali, is now being feted as a national hero in France despite having lived in France for less than six months.
Mayor of Paris Anne Hidalgo announced that the city would support his bid to stay in France, and President Emmanuel Macron welcomed him to the Élysée Palace on Monday.
Gassama christened “Spider-Man” on French social media has emerged as an overnight celebrity after rescuing the child on Saturday night, amid an increasingly difficult time for immigrants in France.
Macron’s government has cracked down on economic immigrants in particular and has doubled the amount of time authorities can detain newcomers.
Gassama’s action however have prompted an online petition to ask that he be granted his residency papers. The brave Malian recounted the chain of events on Saturday to Le Parisien newspaper.
At around 8 p.m., he was with his girlfriend in the 18th arrondissement watching the Champions League final. Looking out onn the street below he saw a crowd gathered screaming and gesturing upward.
Then he saw the boy, whom authorities later said was four years old.
“I climbed up to save him,”
“I did it because it was a kid,” he told Le Parisien. “I love children very much.”
“I didn’t think about the floors,” he said, referring to the building he scaled. “I didn’t think about the risk.”
For many, the question was how the child had been able to climb over the balcony’s railing in the first place.
His mother was not in Paris at the time, and his father, who had apparently left the boy home alone, was questioned by authorities, a judicial source told Agence France-Presse.