Mouhammad Diouf: The Undocumented Senegalese Saving Lives in Spain

Spaniards are calling for the regularisation of Senegalese, Mouhammad Diouf (middle) immigration status. (Photo Credit: Thompson Reuters Foundation)

On Sunday, when Mouhammad Diouf jumped into the Nervion River in Spain’s Basque country city of Bilbao, his situation, skin colour or life weren’t the most important, it was humanity for him.

An unconscious 72-year old man had fallen face down into the murky waters of the river and was drowning before Diouf took the initiative and jumped in the river to save him.

“He was trying to grab on to the rail when he fell into the water,” Diouf told the Guardian. “We were quite far away. I threw down my rucksack and went running.”

After fifteen minutes and he was struggling for his own life too, getting tired in the course of trying to save another man, his two friends also jumped in to help in rescuing the man. It wasn’t Diouf’s first time.

A yet-to-be documented immigrant from Senegal, Diouf rescued a drowning young woman in the same river in September 2020, after she had fallen ill and lost her footing. Caught on video again, Diouf was shown pulling the woman up and trying to rescue her with the aid of a flotation device handed to him by the Police.

His humanity has seen almost 2,000 Spaniards signing petitions calling for the regularisation of Diouf’s immigrant status, with the nation’s far-right dismissive of the rhetoric of keeping immigrants in the country.

“We want Mouhamed Diouf to be granted the papers that will allow him to continue his life in our country legally and comfortably, without fear of being detained and deported,” a petition, launched by the group Wolof, meaning Women Who Love Senegal. Wolof is Senegal’s most Spoken dialect.

The calls for the regularisation of Diouf’s immigration aren’t the first of such. A Senegalese migrant had received residency and work permit following his saving of a woman on a wheel chair from a burning apartment in Denia, a coastal city in Spain. The government had granted him the opportunities after immense pressure from members of the public.

Diouf arrived Spain in 2017 on a sailboat after almost two years of an unforgettable and harrowing journey, which took him through Mauritania and Morocco. He said he appreciates the gestures from the public but he saved those lives out of his love for humanity.

The 27-year old Senegalese has been doing odd jobs in Spain and is also participating in online courses on welding to give him a good job that will help his attempts at earning Spanish residency.

“If it works out, that’s great,” he said. “But what I did, it came from my heart. Not for any other reason.”

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