The boy asked for help from the Italian government so that his little brother could play and run without feeling ill again.
We’re very used to hearing news about refugees illegally travelling to Europe in order to escape political instability, but rarely do we hear about children taking on the perilous sea for a very specific goal.
Last week, a 13-year-old Egyptian boy travelled by himself all the way to Italy in order to seek a medical treatment for his seven-year-old brother who suffers from the blood disorder thrombocytopenia.
The young teenager, who goes by the name of Ahmed Mahmoud, set off from Alexandria, where he was smuggled out in a boat until he reached Lampedusa, before making his way to the Italian city of Florence. According to the Italian newspaper Corriere Della Sera, he was carrying medical documents describing his brother's, Farid, medical condition.
“My dream is to see my brother play without feeling bad, with us playing soccer and running together without being afraid [of getting sick],” said Mahmoud upon arriving in Lampedusa, according to Egyptian Streets.
The Italian paper reported that Ahmed asked the Italian authorities to provide him a job so he could help pay his brother’s medical bills. The Italian government decided to bring in Ahmed's family and treat Farid at no cost to the family.
“To see a 13-year-old boy who risks his life, crosses the sea and comes to Italy only to ask for help to save his brother is a new story, among so many human cases. He said: I'm here because I want to help, I want to save him and continue to play with him,” explained the officer, Maria Volpe, who took Mahmoud from Lampedusa to Porto Empedocle, according to Euro News.
However, according to Al-Ahram Online, Egyptian Health Minister Ahmed Emad reacted to the story on Friday and stressed that Mahmoud’s family never requested for state-sponsored treatment for Farid to begin with. The minister also encouraged the family to contact his office, saying that he would personally take manners into his own hand and make sure that Farid would get the treatment he needs in Egypt.
Since then, the Egyptian Foreign Ministry spokesman Ahmed Abu Zeid has been urging the family to treat their sick son in Egypt as well and he said that the country is always ready to provide medical care for its citizens, as per Al-Ahram.
"This is a message for anyone else who might have flirted with the idea of emigrating or leaving the homeland through an illegal avenue to look for an opportunity or escaping from a certain misery: that he would find support and full sympathy in his homeland," Abu Zeid told Dream TV as he urged on the family to follow Emad’s instructions.
Egypt occupies the tenth place among countries whose citizens regularly travel to Italy since the 2011 revolution. A big chunk of those citizens tend to be unaccompanied migrant children; at least 1,150 unaccompanied Egyptian minors landed in Italy in the first five months of this year, compared with 94 over the same period in 2015 reports the New York Times.
Most Egyptian youth aim for Italy particularly because the state provides foreign minors with schooling and temporary papers. An additional perk for young migrants is the fact that they can also apply for permanent residency once they turn 18 which makes illegal travel, albeit dangerous, a highly attractive option for youth in particular.
Although healthcare is supposedly available to all, it is a well-known fact that public hospitals in Egypt are not top quality and many citizens end up resorting to private hospitals despite their exorbitant prices for medical services.
Main image courtesy of Corriere Della Sera.