Italy’s interior ministry has said the country will grant citizenship to an Egyptian schoolboy who alerted authorities that his school bus had been hijacked by its driver on Wednesday.
The driver, an Italian of Senegalese descent, hijacked the vehicle, which had 51 children on board, near Milan and set it on fire, in an apparent protest at migrant drownings in the Mediterranean.
Thirteen-year-old Ramy Shehata hid his mobile phone when the bus driver confiscated phones from students and called the authorities. Police then rushed to the scene and broke the bus windows to get the passengers to safety.
The office of Italian Interior Minister Matteo Salvini said it would grant citizenship to Shehata.
"The interior ministry is ready to take on the expenses and speed up the procedures to recognise citizenship for the little hero. The hope is to attribute ... citizenship to Ramy and remove it from the bus driver," the ministry said in a statement.
Shehata was born in Italy but was has never been granted official citizenship documents, his father told Italy’s Ansa news agency on Thursday.
"My son did his duty, it would be nice if he got Italian citizenship now," the father, Khaled Shehata, told the news agency. "We would love to stay in this country.”
Police spokesman Marco Palmieri said that during the standoff the driver shouted: “Stop the deaths at sea, I’ll carry out a massacre.” He was apparently referring to the deaths of African migrants at sea while trying to reach Europe.
According to the United Nations, some 2,297 migrants drowned or went missing in the Mediterranean in 2018.
Italy has taken a hard line on the matter, closing its ports to charity search and rescue ships, something that observers say drove up deaths.