(My salute to migrants - Editorial for The Gulf Today)
While video footage of Malian "Spiderman" Mamoudou Gassama scaling four storeys of a Paris building with his bare hands to save a child dangling from a balcony has catapulted him to global fame, the incident has also brought into sharp focus the plight of millions of migrants, who risk their lives on rough seas and unknown territories just in the hope that one day the sun would shine and they might find a better life.
French President Emmanuel Macron has sent the right signals by hailing the 22-year-old Malian migrant as an "example" and offering him citizenship.
However, Gassama’s act of heroism comes as lawmakers debate a controversial bill in France that would speed up the deportation of economic migrants and failed asylum-seekers, thousands of whom live in sordid camps in the capital.
Like almost all other refugees and migrants, Gassama’s story has also been one of huge challenges. He has been living illegally and working in construction since arriving in September last year following a perilous journey from his homeland to Libya and then Italy.
On his arrival in France after travelling the Mediterranean migrant route, Gassama was just given a mattress on the floor in a room occupied by his brother and three relatives from his home village.
Migrants and refugees are humans too. It’s the strangulating circumstances they are in that force them to look for greener pastures. Exploitation, extreme weather conditions, new cultures and food habits, hostile hosts are just a few of the line of thorns they are forced to overcome.
The birth of a baby boy, aptly named Miracle, on board a ship in the Mediterranean after his migrant mother was rescued trying to make the crossing from Libya last week highlights the length to which migrants go seeking safer places.
‘Miracle’ is said to be the 36th baby to be born on board one of the ships that patrol the Mediterranean.
Migration is not a crime. Slamming doors, closing borders and keeping people out will never ever be a solution. Fair migration laws will benefit all and that’s precisely what the international community should strive for.