A boy from Ivory Coast found in a suitcase at a Spanish border crossing has been reunited with his mother while his father, arrested for trying to smuggle him in, has been freed on bail allowing the family to reunite. “We are very happy. We’ll set off again with the little one and we’ll try to find his father,” the family’s lawyer Juan Isidro Fernandez Diaz told journalists in Ceuta, a Spanish enclave north of Morocco.
Police in Ceuta had found eight-year-old Adou Ouattara curled up and covered inside a suitcase without air vents at a border checkpoint on May 7. Since then he has been staying at a centre for underage migrants in Ceuta. Several hours after the youngster was discovered, his father Ali Ouattara was arrested at the same border crossing on charges of human rights abuse, for trying to have the boy smuggled into the country. “We have paid the bail and they’re going to release him,” the family’s lawyer said.
The suitcase containing Adou was being carried through a pedestrian border crossing by a 19-year-old woman, whose iden-tity has not been released, when a security scanner detected the boy inside. Last month officials granted Adou authorisation to live in Spain for one year and had been waiting for results of DNA tests before turning him over to his mother Lucie Ouattara, who lives legally in Spain’s Canary Islands off the Moroccan coast. Adou was reunited with his mother Monday after tests proved they were related.
“His mother cried,” Maria Antonia Palomo, the Ceuta official in charge of juvenile affairs, told the media. Adou’s mother moved to Spain from the Ivory Coast last year to join the boy’s father, who was already living legally in the Canary Islands. She had brought along their 11-yearold daughter but left Adou behind with his grandmother and brother in the Ivory Coast.
After the grandmother died in 2014, Adou’s father requested a residency permit for him in Spain, their lawyer said, but the request was rejected because his monthly income fell short of the 1,333 euros ($1,500) required by law. Each year, thousands of migrants risk their lives trying to enter Ceuta and Melilla, another Spanish territory bordering Morocco, in search of a better life in Europe. Many Africans try to scramble over the seven-metre (23-foot) fences that separate the Spanish cities from Morocco. Others smuggle themselves over the border hidden in vehicles and cargoes, or try to swim or sail from shores on the Moroccan side.
Meanwhile, a court ordered Ali Ouattara freed hours after his 8-year-old son was allowed leave a youth centre where he was cared for after being discovered May 7 by border police in Spain’s North African enclave of Ceuta. Ouattara, who lives with his Ivory Coast wife – the boy’s mother- legally in Spain, said through his lawyers he knew nothing of the suitcase plan, believing his son was to be brought in with a visa. He was arrested entering Ceuta hours after the boy was discovered. The Moroccan woman remains in detention.
The father was allowed to leave jail after his wife paid 5,000 euros ($5,650) in bail at the court in Ceuta. Francesco Luca Caronna, a member of the law firm acting for the family, said Tuesday that Ouattara remains charged with human rights abuse against a foreign citizen. “If he had known his son was to be brought in in a case he would never have allowed it,” said the lawyer. “He is a victim of migrant traffickers.” Ouattara must surrender his passport and appear before the court each month until the trial, which is not expected for several months.
The father and mother live legally on the Spanish Canary Island of Fuerteventura and had been trying to bring over their children, according to Caronna. The lawyer said an 11-year-old daughter was allowed in recently but Ouattara’s monthly salary fell short of the amount required for two children. It was then that the father set about looking for a visa, Caronna said. Spanish authorities last month granted the boy a temporary residence permit.