A haunting tale that began last month with an X-ray silhouette of Adou Ouattara crammed inside a suitcase being smuggled into Spain led at last this week to the 8-year-old boy's reunion with his family.
Ouattara’s migration ordeal from Ivory Coast went viral, illustrating the often dangerous methods used by human smugglers who make money from the thousands of Africans trying to make it to Europe every year.
Many migrants drown each year traveling on unseaworthy ships, some abandoned at sea by human traffickers and left with no captain, crew or navigation aids. Others try to stow away to Europe in trucks or containers. Many are stranded along the route, sometimes left to starve in the desert.
The story of the child in the suitcase offered a stark portrait of the human cost of such trafficking.
Lucille Ouattara, who lives in Spain legally with the boy’s father, Ali, was reunited with her son Monday at a care facility. He had been kept there since being found May 7 in the suitcase of a 19-year-old Moroccan woman at the border crossing between Morocco and Ceuta, a Spanish enclave in northwest Africa.
The image showed up on the border point X-ray when the Moroccan’s bag was scanned. The boy was found in the case with a few items of clothing, without air vents. As he crawled out, looking shocked and exhausted, those present snapped photographs that swiftly found their way online. At the time officials told journalists he was in a terrible state.
Ali Ouattara, legally residing in Spain, and the Moroccan woman, who is unrelated to the family, were both arrested and charged with abuse of human rights. A lawyer told the media the father believed that his son was being transported by car.
The father was released Monday after his wife paid bail.
“If he had known his son was to be brought in in a case he would never have allowed it,” said Francesco Luca Caronna, a lawyer representing the family, according to Associated Press. "He is a victim of migrant traffickers."
Caronna said the family had managed to bring one of their children, an 11-year-old daughter, to Spain but were denied permission to bring their son because their income was too low.
The boy has been granted temporary residence in Spain. His father will face trial in coming months.
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