France’s ‘Spiderman’ joins fire brigade as citizenship awaits

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This handout photo taken and released by the Paris Fire Brigade (Brigade des sapeurs-pompiers de Paris - BSPP) on May 29, 2018, shows Mamoudou Gassama (2nd L), the 22-year-old Malian "Spiderman" feted for saving a child hanging from a balcony, visiting the Paris Fire Brigade headquarters and Champerret fire station in Paris. (AFP)
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Malian migrant Mamoudou Gassama (R) shows his temporary residence permit after receiving it at the Prefecture of Bobigny, northeast of Paris on May 29, 2018, one day after he was honored by the French President for scaling an apartment building to save a 4-year-old child dangling from a fourth-floor balcony. (AFP)
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French President Emmanuel Macron (L) speaks with Mamoudou Gassama, 22, from Mali, at the presidential Elysee Palace in Paris, on May, 28, 2018. (AFP)
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Malian migrant Mamoudou Gassama (3L) surrounded by journalists, walks down stairs with Seine-Saint-Denis Prefet Pierre-Andre Durand (2L) as he arrives to receive a temporary residence permit at the Prefecture of Bobigny, northeast of Paris on May 29, 2018, one day after he was honored by the French President for scaling an apartment building to save a 4-year-old child dangling from a fourth-floor balcony. (AFP)
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Mamoudou Gassama was captured on video scaling an apartment block to bring a child hanging from a balcony to safety. (Reuters)
Updated 30 May 2018
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France’s ‘Spiderman’ joins fire brigade as citizenship awaits

  • Many residents were unaware the shy youth was living at the hostel and happy to see him hailed for his bravery by President Emmanuel Macron and being placed on a fast track to French citizenship.
  • On his arrival in France in September 2017 after traveling the Mediterranean migrant route, Gassama was given a mattress on the floor in a room occupied by his 54-year-old brother Birama and three relatives from his home village of Yaguine in western Mali

PARIS: Mamoudou Gassama, the 22-year-old Malian “Spiderman” feted for saving a child hanging from a balcony, took his first step toward French citizenship Tuesday and joined the fire brigade as accolades continued to pour in over his daring rescue.
Video footage of Gassama scaling four storys of the building with his bare hands has catapulted the young man to global fame, and earned him the promise of citizenship from President Emmanuel Macron.
Wearing white sweatpants and a black cap, the hero of a rescue video viewed by millions of people appeared slightly overwhelmed by the media furor as he filed his application for legal residency in the Paris suburb of Bobigny.
Hailing the bravery of the youth who had been living in France illegally, the head of the local authority, Pierre-Andre Durand said: “How can anyone fail to be impressed by what he did, not admire it?
“He helped someone in danger, which is not such a common thing in our society.”
Gassama became an overnight sensation after the video of him plucking a four-year-old boy to safety Saturday went viral.
On Monday he was honored by President Emmanuel Macron with a medal for bravery, the promise of citizenship and the offer of a job with the fire service.
Gassama arrived in France via Italy and the perilous Mediterranean migrant route.
His official permit allowing him to work will arrive within a month, and his citizenship papers in about three months, officials said Tuesday.
The athletic Malian also visited a fire station to sign up for a 10-month internship with the Paris fire and rescue services, expected to pay close to 600 euros ($690) a month.

The family of the young boy he saved thanked him Tuesday for his quick thinking.
The boy’s paternal grandmother, who like his mother lives in Reunion, told RMC radio Tuesday that she was “very moved” by the images of the rescue and sent “huge thanks” to Gassama.
“He’s really a hero,” she said. “He did not stand by and watch, he saved my little sweetpea.”
The boy’s father, who had been living alone with him in Paris, had left him alone to go out to the shops and then remained on the street to play Pokemon Go, according to French investigators.
He was arrested on charges of neglecting his parental duties but released again on Monday.
The Paris prosecutor’s office said he had admitted his guilt and expressed “profound regret.”
The boy’s mother learned the news of the rescue on Reunion Island — the French Indian Ocean territory where she and the father were born and where she still lives.
Reacting to Gassama’s intervention on Antenne Reunion radio she said: “We can only thank him and thank heaven he was so reactive.”
“Things could have turned out much worse so I am relieved,” she said, adding that she was impatient to be reunited with her son and husband.

Gassama told Macron during a visit on Monday that he “did not think twice” before springing into action.
Lawmakers are debating a controversial bill that would speed up the deportation of economic migrants and failed asylum-seekers, thousands of whom live in squalid camps in the capital.
“There’s a bit of hypocrisy or cynicism,” added Claire Rodier of the GISTI association which supports immigrants. She saw a contrast between the treatment of Gassama and “the repressive policy of this government against migrants and those without documents.”
 


UN: Nearly 71 million now displaced by war, violence at home

Updated 19 June 2019
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UN: Nearly 71 million now displaced by war, violence at home

  • The figures are bound to add fuel to a debate at the intersection of international law, human rights and domestic politics
  • UNHCR said 70.8 million people were forcibly displaced at the end of last year, up from about 68.5 million in 2017

GENEVA: A record 71 million people have been displaced worldwide from war, persecution and other violence, the UN refugee agency said Wednesday, an increase of more than 2 million from last year and an overall total that would amount to the world’s 20th most populous country.
The annual “Global Trends” report released by the UN High Commissioner for Refugees counts the number of the world’s refugees, asylum-seekers and internally displaced people at the end of 2018, in some cases following decades of living away from home.
The figures, coming on the eve of World Refugee Day on Thursday, are bound to add fuel to a debate at the intersection of international law, human rights and domestic politics, especially the movement in some countries, including the US, against immigrants and refugees.
Launching the report, the high commissioner, Filippo Grandi, had a message for US President Donald Trump and other world leaders, calling it “damaging” to depict migrants and refugees as threats to jobs and security in host countries. Often, they are fleeing insecurity and danger themselves, he said.
The report also puts a statistical skeleton onto often-poignant individual stories of people struggling to survive by crossing rivers, deserts, seas, fences and other barriers, natural and man-made, to escape government oppression, gang killings, sexual abuse, militia murders and other such violence at home.
UNHCR said 70.8 million people were forcibly displaced at the end of last year, up from about 68.5 million in 2017 — and nearly a 65 percent increase from a decade ago. Among them, nearly three in five people — or more than 41 million people — have been displaced within their home countries.
“The global trends, once again unfortunately, go in what I would say is the wrong direction,” Grandi told reporters in Geneva. “There are new conflicts, new situations, producing refugees, adding themselves to the old ones. The old ones never get resolved.”
The phenomenon is both growing in size and duration. Some four-fifths of the “displacement situations” have lasted more than five years. After eight years of war in Syria, for instance, its people continue to make up the largest population of forcibly displaced people, at some 13 million.
Amid runaway inflation and political turmoil at home, Venezuelans for the first time accounted for the largest number of new asylum-seekers in 2018, with more than 340,000 — or more than one in five worldwide last year. Asylum-seekers receive international protection as they await acceptance or rejection of their requests for refugee status.
UNHCR said that its figures are “conservative” and that Venezuela masks a potentially longer-term trend.
Some 4 million people are known to have left the South American country in recent years. Many of those have traveled freely to Peru, Colombia and Brazil, but only about one-eighth have sought formal international protection, and the outflow continues, suggesting the strains on the welcoming countries could worsen.
Grandi predicted a continued “exodus” from Venezuela and appealed for donors to provide more development assistance to the region.
“Otherwise these countries will not bear the pressure anymore and then they have to resort to measures that will damage refugees,” he said. “We are in a very dangerous situation.”
The United States, meanwhile, remains the “largest supporter of refugees” in the world, Grandi said in an interview. The US is the biggest single donor to UNHCR. He also credited local communities and advocacy groups in the United States for helping refugees and asylum-seekers in the country.
But the refugee agency chief noted long-term administrative shortcomings that have given the United States the world’s biggest backlog of asylum claims, at nearly 719,000. More than a quarter-million claims were added last year.
He also decried recent rhetoric that has been hostile to migrants and refugees.
“In America, just like in Europe actually and in other parts of the world, what we are witnessing is an identification of refugees — but not just refugees, migrants as well — with people that come take away jobs that threaten our security, our values,” Grandi said. “And I want to say to the US administration — to the president — but also to the leaders around the world: This is damaging.”
He said many people leaving Honduras, Guatemala and El Salvador through Mexico have faced violence by gangs and suffered from “the inability of these governments to protect their own citizens.”
The UNHCR report noted that by far, the most refugees are taken in in the developing world, not wealthy countries.
The figures marked the seventh consecutive year in which the numbers of forcibly displaced rose.
“Yet another year, another dreadful record has been beaten,” said Jon Cerezo of British charity Oxfam. “Behind these figures, people like you and me are making dangerous trips that they never wanted to make, because of threats to their safety and most basic rights.”