France accused of double standards after ‘heroic’ Tunisian who saved children from flames to be deported
France has been accused of double standards for refusing residency to a ‘heroic” Tunisian 25-year old who saved two children from a burning building while offering a Malian migrant French nationality for saving a four-year old boy dangling from a balcony.
A film of “Spiderman” Mamoudou Gassama, 22, scaling a building in Paris’ 18th arrondissement a week ago was viewed by millions and saw him invited to the Elysée Palace to meet President Emmanuel Macron, who offered him a medal, French residency and a job as a fireman.
However, supporters of another migrant without papers, a Tunisian known only as Ayman L, say he is equally worthy of special treatment and yet he faces imminent deportation.
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After arriving in France in 2013, Ayman was in a cafe with two friends in Fosses, in the Val-d’Oise near Paris, when he heard cries for help.
A mother was in the back garden of her house with two small children stuck inside as smoke billowed from the building. Undeterred, Ayman ran inside with a friend and cousin.
“We went straight up to look for the children. We found them straight away in their bedroom. They had stayed together,” he told Le Parisien.
Three weeks later after a campaign by the mother to find them, the three were awarded a medal for their “act of bravery”.
However, despite this public recognition, Ayman, who has an IT diploma, has been refused a residency permit and has been ordered to leave France. The decision was last week upheld by the regional state prefect despite a request by the local mayor to consider his request favourably given his act of valour.
His lawyer, Philippine Parastatis, has asked to meet Mr Macron so that “he can explain to me how to prioritise acts of bravery”.
“Must one consider that saving a baby by climbing a building is more heroic than braving the flames to save two children? What a stroke of bad luck he wasn’t filmed,” she told Le Parisien.
The case hit national media as police in Paris evacuated around 1,200 people from the largest two remaining migrant camps in the French capital on Monday. They had been living in squalid conditions along the canal Saint Martin, eastern Paris and Porte de La Chapelle, to the North.
The operation came less than a week after police dismantled another camp along the canal St Denis in a northern suburb, bussing out around 1,000 migrants mainly from Eritrea, and Sudan.
Claims for refugee status will be given a "complete and in-depth examination", police said.
France received a record 100,000 asylum applications last year and granted refugee status to around 30,000 people, official figures show. There were 14,900 forced expulsions.