The story of Gassama, a Malian migrant in France, heroically rescuing a small child hanging from a fifth story balcony has caught international attention.
And rightfully so.
Gassama showed exceptional bravery, courage, and selflessness, reacting immediately to the child’s precarious position. Whilst crowds screamed and watched the child helplessly, Gassama scaled the apartment block, climbing up five balconies before pulling the child up to safety.
This heroic feat became viral, leading to Gassama meeting Macron and being awarded the French medal of courage and bravery. Notable in itself but more important given Gassama’s citizenship status, which the press seized on immediately and predictably.
As an undocumented migrant, Gassama is part of what is dubbed the ‘san papiers’ community within France – literally ‘without paper’. Without his heroic feat, Gassama would be forced out of the country like the rest of these migrants, usually after a lengthy detention period.
So, Macron’s celebration of Gassama, and the international revelry that it caused, is all the more notable, especially from a country that is historically reluctant towards cultural diversity and open migration.
Yet to celebrate is to ignore certain parts of this story. Of course, Gassama deserves the praise and he rightfully deserves the fast-pass French citizenship that Macron also awarded him with. But Macron – and this story as a whole – reveals the French double-standard and, frankly, hypocrisy towards migrants.
By awarding Gassama citizenship due to his heroism is well and good, yet Macron is setting up a double standard by doing so. He is demonstrating that only truly exceptional and noteworthy individuals can become French citizens. He is reinforcing the idea that migrants have to prove themselves – in Gassama’s case, by literally putting their life at risk – in order to become a citizen of France.
This is a gross double-standard; average French citizens, born into the country don’t have to prove their morality or bravery in order to be treated humanely.
The irony and hypocrisy of this is encapsulated perfectly within this news story.
Gassama, an undocumented migrant, would have been subjected to harsh and intolerant treatment if he had not saved the child. Said child, belonged to French citizens by birth who neglected the child to the point he almost died.
The hypocrisy is evident.
French citizens are allowed to remain and are treated leniently despite their neglect and immorality, whereas migrants like Gassama have to prove themselves against a strict code of conduct that supposedly represents French values yet which French citizens themselves ignore and blatantly undermine.
This is a highly dangerous and destructive double-standard that justifies the mistreatment of thousands of ‘regular’, undocumented migrants. This has maintained the intolerance towards migrants that has been bubbling under the French psyche for decades.
Yet, the media depiction of this story does not encapsulate this hypocrisy and immorality.
Instead, it lauds Macron and his seemingly progressive, humanitarian move to forgive Gassama and allow him into France.
Which would be worth celebrating if Macron wasn’t such a hypocrite.
He may celebrate exceptional migrants yet he himself is the first to reinforce the French double-standard and, ultimately, hatred towards migrants.
He is pursuing a highly controversial and harsh amendment to an already-severe migration bill that will impact undocumented migrants, like Gassama, enormously. Called ‘brutal’, the bill will lengthen detention sentences, introduce prison sentences for illegal entrants, and reinforce the national intolerance and anxiety towards migrants.
Macron himself stated that Gassama made no difference to his dedication to further restriction as ‘exceptions do not make policy’.
So, whilst we are right to celebrate Gassama and the extraordinary feat he performed, we should be wary not to reproduce the French double-standard that would see only such exceptional people be allowed citizenship.
Such a policy and national psyche is dangerous and blatantly hypocritical, verging on the immoral.
Macron should be treated skeptically, as he represents this French intolerance fully. His attempts to hide his restrictive and intolerant bill behind faux acceptance and celebration of Gassama needs to be exposed and criticised for the false media spin that it fundamentally is.
The French perception of migrants and their deservingness of citizenship ultimately is what needs to be challenged and corrected.
No person should have to risk their lives in order to prove they deserve to live one in the country of their choice.