Egypt said the family of a 13-year-old boy who travelled to Italy by boat to seek medical care for his younger brother will go to Florence for treatment despite Cairo's offer to treat the boy at home.
Ahmed Mahmoud travelled to Italy last week aboard a migrant boat after paying smugglers in the Egyptian port city of Alexandria. He was carrying only his seven-year-old brother’s medical records and asked authorities upon arrival to provide him a job so that he could pay for his brother's medical expenses, Italian media reported.
The foreign ministry said on Thursday that the Italian embassy in Cairo had contacted the boy's family to provide necessary medical help for the sick brother, Farid, after a number of Italian businessmen and families offered to cover expenses of his treatment.
It said in an earlier statement it had no access to the family's data. It added that Italian authorities are issuing visas for the family members, including the sick boy, who suffers from a serious blood disease.
"The Italian embassy in Rome, in cooperation with the International Organization of Migration, offered the family...to either receive treatment at an Egyptian hospital of their choice at Italy's expense or to travel to Italy to receive free treatment there," the ministry said in the first statement.
The family has decided to travel to Italy and receive treatment there, it said.
They are expected to leave for Italian city of Florence "within days," the ministry added.
The case, which has highlighted inadequacies in healthcare in Egypt, came to light last week after Italian media reported the youngster's story, with the Italian Prime Minister Matteo Renzi saying a hospital in Florence was willing to treat Ahmed's brother free of charge.
This prompted Egypt's government to offer necessary care for the child. The health minister Ahmed Emad urged the family to contact him personally to arrange for free-of-charge treatment while suggesting the parents had not sought treatment at home before opting for Italy.
Many Egyptians travel to Italy via smugglers' boats that depart from the country's northern coast, with most hoping to find work. The majority of those travelling are minors, the IOM said in a recent report.