An eight-year-old boy whose father allegedly attempted to smuggle him into Spain from Africa in a suitcase has been reunited with his mother, Spanish authorities say, in the Spanish territory of the Canary Islands. He will be allowed to stay for one year, despite entering the country illegally.
“We are very happy. We’ll set off again with this little one,” the family’s lawyer told media.
Adou Ouattara, 8, is originally from the Ivory Coast. Spanish agents found him curled up in a suitcase without air vents at a border checkpoint in Ceuta, Morocco, on May 7. Ceuta is a Spanish territory, despite being on Moroccan mainland.
The agents noticed the woman carrying the suitcase was acting suspiciously, so they asked to inspect the case further, expecting to find drugs or other contraband inside. However, much to their surprise, they saw the outline of a boy in the x-ray machine.
“He was in a terrible state [when security guards discovered him],” an official said.
Authorities say that the boy’s father, Ali Ouattara, was having him smuggled across the border into Spain because it was too expensive to legally get him into the country.
Ouattara’s mother, Lucie Ouattara, is a legal resident of the Spanish-held Canary Islands. Authorities turned Adou over to her when DNA tests positively matched them.
“His mother cried. It’s a very beautiful day,” Maria Antonia Palaomo, a Spanish immigration official said.
Ali Ouattara was released after his wife paid the 5,000 euro bail. The Moroccan woman who was caught smuggling the boy is also being detained.
Mr. Ouattara claims that he was unaware of the suitcase plan and that he believed his young son would be taken to Spain using a visa he paid for.
“If he had known his son was to be brought in a case he never would have allowed it. He’s a victim of migrant traffickers,” the family’s lawyer said.
Spanish authorities have charged Mr. Ouattara with human rights abuse against a foreign national.
Human trafficking has increasingly become a problem in the Mediterranean Sea. In 2014, over 3,000 migrants attempting to reach Europe died, and three quarters died crossing the Mediterranean Sea. Statistics for 2015 are still being collected, but authorities believe that this year will be even worse.
Officials have called the migrant crisis a “security problem,” a “tragedy,” and a “moral failure.”
Even those migrants who safely make it across the sea find themselves the targets of economic discrimination and xenophobia, according to some reports.
The European Union crafted a plan to deal with the growing numbers of migrants and to stop the human trafficking industry, but the governments of France and Germany both openly question how effective this strategy will be.