OUmo Totopa with a photo of her and her son | Credit: Women's Link NGO
OUmo Totopa with a photo of her and her son | Credit: Women's Link NGO

A four-year-old boy from the Ivory Coast and his mother have been staying in two separate reception centers in Spain for over 6 months. The case has now gone before the European Court of Human Rights.

The four-year-old child and his mother arrived in Spain on two different boats and were placed in different reception centers. They have been separated for over six months, and the case has now made its way to the European Court of Human Rights. 

Oumo Totopa, a migrant from the Ivory Coast, has been kept in the Jerez de la Frontera (Cadiz) reception center since April, where she is prohibited from having even telephone contact with her son Abderraman, who had been taken on a boat a month before her with his aunt to Melilla and currently staying at a local juvenile center.

Upholding the complaint filed by the Women's Link NGO, which reported the news, the Strasbourg court has asked the Spanish government what measures it has taken thus far to ensure that the mother and son will be reunited. 

Forced to separate 

An endless bureaucratic process has thus far stopped Oumo Totopa from embracing her Abderraman again, who arrived in March in Spain with his aunt on a boat intercepted by the maritime authorities off Melilla. Coming from the Ivory Coast, the three family members hid for months in the forests of northern Morocco while waiting for a chance to get onto a boat heading for the Spanish coast. 

In March, when the chance arose, Oumo was sick, exhausted and weak and so asked her sister to take her son with her and wait for her on the other side. She said she would go when she was physically able to try the crossing. Since then, the NGO said, the child in the juvenile reception center has not been allowed to see his aunt or his mother. 

Case goes to Strasbourg 

Having arrived in Spain, Oumo had to send her DNA to the Melilla social services to prove that she is the little boy's mother. The first test was done privately and was rejected, and the woman has now been waiting for months for the results of another test on a saliva sample sent to a Granada laboratory. Due to this delay, the ombudsman sent a complaint to the state prosecutor and asked that the mother at least be allowed to visit the child before blood ties are ascertained. 

''My heart has been broken and I am crying since I arrived in Spain,'' Oumo told the online publication Publico. The Strasbourg court has now called on the Spanish government to explain by 5 PM on October 26 what measures it will take to prove the family ties, as well as what ones it will take to prevent ''the violation of rights'' and enable Oumo to talk to Abderraman, either over the phone or via video, while the bureaucratic process for family reunification is underway. 

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