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A mother from the Ivory Coast was able to embrace her four-year-old son for the first time in several months. Oumo Totopa was at a reception center in Spain awaiting to be reunited with her son, who was held at a center in Melilla while authorities worked to verify her status as his mother.

Oumo Totopa, a mother from the Ivory Coast who first arrived on Spanish shores in April, was reunited with her four-year-old son Abderraman after seven months apart. NGO Women's Link Worldwide brought Totopa's case to the European Court of Human Rights, citing the "calvary" of the situation that lasted months as authorities verified her status as Abderraman's mother.

Reunited in their new life

Totopa and her son will now be transferred to a reception home in Jerez de la Frontera, in Andalusia, following the Welfare Department confirmed they could be reunited in the Spanish enclave of Melilla in Morocco. Abderraman has been hosted in a migrant reception center in Melilla since arriving in Spain earlier this year.

"In all these months, Abderraman has grown. He forgot French and now speaks Spanish," Totopa said through tears as she hugged her son. "But I'm finally able to see him again. My life begins again now."

Abderraman arrived in Morocco with his mother and aunt. The three of them hid in the forests of northern Morocco while they waited for a chance to board boats to go to Spain. Their chance came in March, but Totopa was ill and unable to travel. She asked her sister to take Abderraman the rest of the way to Spain. Since then, Abderraman has been living in a reception center for migrant children in the Spanish enclave of Melilla. He was not allowed to contact his mother or aunt by phone until now.

Courts required

Totopa arrived in Spain in April and was first held in a migrant reception center in Algesiras. From there, she was transferred to Jerez de la Frontera, where she sent DNA samples to social services in Melilla to prove that she is Abderraman's mother. While Totopa waited for the bureaucratic procedures to be completed, child protective services in the Melilla did not respond to her requests to contact her son.

The NGO Women's Link first brought Totopa's case to the public defender's office and the general prosecutor's office in Spain. The NGO then took her case to the European Court of Human Rights in Strasbourg. At the end of October, the court called on the Spanish government for measures to "impede the violation of (Totopa's) fundamental rights." The measures include asking what it would use to prove Totopa’s paternity and to allow her to visit and contact her son. Women's Link said the case will move forward, considering that "fundamental rights were violated" such as "the right to private and family life and not being discriminated against."

 

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