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Spain urged to give residency to ‘hero’ migrant

Published on December 16, 2019

More than 55,000 people had signed a petition by Thursday urging Spain to give residency to an undocumented migrant from Senegal who rescued a disabled man from a burning building.

Gorgui Lamine Sow, a 20-year-old street vendor, heard screams and saw smoke pouring from a second-floor window last Friday in the Mediterranean city of Denia.

He climbed the iron bars of the front door before entering the apartment from the balcony, according to images in Spanish media.

He then emerged from the burning building with the man slung over his shoulder and carried him down a ladder that had been set up by a neighbour.

“I did it because my heart asked me too,” Sow, who arrived in Spain in August 2017, told local daily newspaper Levante-El Mercantil Valenciano.

“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.”

Local councillor Javier Scotto hailed Sow in a tweet as a “hero”.

Denia city hall has requested that Spain’s central government give Sow residency and his case is now being studied by the labour and migration ministry, a government spokesman said.

Tens of thousands signed an online petition urging the government to give Sow residency.

The petition, launched on Tuesday, hails Sow as a “model citizen”.

Sow currently lives in a crowded room in the seaside town of Gandia with his partner and their seven-month-old daughter.

He travels 40 kilometres (25 miles) by bus every day to Denia to sell bracelets and necklaces on the streets, a common job for undocumented migrants in Spain.

“There is no door and the cold gets in. We also don’t have a bed. The three of us sleep on a mattress,” Sow said.

“I want papers to be able to work and live here with my family.”

The case has been compared to that of a migrant 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.