Costa Blanca street seller wins residency in Spain for heroic act

A migrant from Senegal who saved a disabled man from a burning building in Denia has been granted Spanish residency for his heroic act.

Costa Blanca street seller wins residency in Spain for heroic act
Alex Caudeli thanks Gorgui Lamine Sow, the mantero who came to his rescue. Photo: GoFundMe

Gorgui Lamine Sow, a 20-year-old who arrived by boat in Spain in 2017 and has been making a meagre living selling jewellery on Denia's sea front, saved the life of Alex Caudeli in early December.

He was walking down a street in Denia on Spain's eastern Mediterranean coast 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.

The dramatic rescue was caught on camer by neighbour Roberta Etter

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 last Friday that it had granted Sow residency in recognition of his “act of courage and service to the community”.   

After the rescue, Sow told The Local that he sleeps beside his partner and eight-month-old daughter on a mattress on the floor  seaside town of Gandia, and 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.


Gorgui with his girlfriend and their 7-month old daughter in Denia. Photo: Roberta Etter

“It's true that I am poor, that I don't have money but I have a heart,” he told The Local.  “I have a heart that wants to help people and I knew I could save him.”

Writing about the rescue in an appeal for funds launched on Go Fund Me this week, Caudeli said: “Not all heroes wear capes and Gorgui is the example of that. Thanks to him, I'm alive.”

He explained about his mobility issues and said that he was unable to escape from his home if not for a miracle.

“And in this case, my miracle had a name: Gorgui Lamine Sow, a 20-year-old Senegalese who did not hesitate to put his life at risk to save mine and that of my puppy,” he wrote.

He is appealing for donations both for himself, because he lost everything in the fire and is now living in a squat nearby, and for his rescuer.
“I will be eternally grateful to Gorgui, but given my precarious situation I have nothing to offer. Therefore, I ask for the maximum help to help him realise his dream, have a decent life and a stable job. And at the same time, give me a hand too.”
For those wishing to make a contribution the Go Fund Me appeal can be found HERE


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How the EU aims to reform border-free Schengen area

European countries agreed on Thursday to push towards a long-stalled reform of the bloc's migration system, urging tighter control of external borders and better burden-sharing when it comes to asylum-seekers.

How the EU aims to reform border-free Schengen area
European interior ministers met in the northern French city of tourcoing, where president Emmanuel Macron gave a speech. Photo: Yoat Valat/AFP

The EU home affairs commissioner Ylva Johansson, speaking after a meeting of European interior ministers, said she welcomed what she saw as new momentum on the issue.

In a reflection of the deep-rooted divisions on the issue, France’s Interior Minister Gérald Darmanin – whose country holds the rotating EU presidency – said the process would be “gradual”, and welcomed what he said was unanimous backing.

EU countries backed a proposal from French President Emmanuel Macron to create a council guiding policy in the Schengen area, the passport-free zone used by most EU countries and some affiliated nations such as Switzerland and Norway.

Schengen council

Speaking before the meeting, Macron said the “Schengen Council” would evaluate how the area was working but would also take joint decisions and facilitate coordination in times of crisis.

“This council can become the face of a strong, protective Europe that is comfortable with controlling its borders and therefore its destiny,” he said.

The first meeting is scheduled to take place on March 3rd in Brussels.

A statement released after the meeting said: “On this occasion, they will establish a set of indicators allowing for real time evaluation of the situation at our borders, and, with an aim to be able to respond to any difficulty, will continue their discussions on implementing new tools for solidarity at the external borders.”

Step by step

The statement also confirmed EU countries agreed to take a step-by-step approach on plans for reforming the EU’s asylum rules.

“The ministers also discussed the issues of asylum and immigration,” it read.

“They expressed their support for the phased approach, step by step, put forward by the French Presidency to make headway on these complex negotiations.

“On this basis, the Council will work over the coming weeks to define a first step of the reform of the European immigration and asylum system, which will fully respect the balance between the requirements of responsibility and solidarity.”

A planned overhaul of EU migration policy has so far foundered on the refusal of countries such as the Czech Republic, Hungary, Poland and Slovakia to accept a sharing out of asylum-seekers across the bloc.

That forces countries on the EU’s outer southern rim – Italy, Greece, Malta and Spain – to take responsibility for handling irregular migrants, many of whom are intent on making their way to Europe’s wealthier northern nations.

France is pushing for member states to commit to reinforcing the EU’s external borders by recording the details of every foreign arrival and improving vetting procedures.

It also wants recalcitrant EU countries to financially help out the ones on the frontline of migration flows if they do not take in asylum-seekers themselves.

Johansson was critical of the fact that, last year, “45,000 irregular arrivals” were not entered into the common Eurodac database containing the fingerprints of migrants and asylum-seekers.

Earlier, German Interior Minister Nancy Faeser suggested her country, France and others could form a “coalition of the willing” to take in asylum-seekers even if no bloc-wide agreement was struck to share them across member states.

She noted that Macron spoke of a dozen countries in that grouping, but added that was probably “very optimistic”.

Luxembourg’s foreign minister, Jean Asselborn, hailed what he said was “a less negative atmosphere” in Thursday’s meeting compared to previous talks.

But he cautioned that “we cannot let a few countries do their EU duty… while others look away”.

France is now working on reconciling positions with the aim of presenting propositions at a March 3rd meeting on European affairs.