Egypt govt urges family of 13-year-old migrant to treat sick child at home

Ahram Online , Saturday 20 Aug 2016

A photo published by Corriere Della Sera of Ahmed Mahmoud after arriving in Italy.

An Egyptian foreign ministry spokesman urged the family of a 13-year-old boy who travelled to Italy by boat to seek medical treatment for his younger sibling to treat the sick son in Egypt, saying the country always welcomes its citizens and provides medical care for them.

According to Corriere Della Sera, Ahmed Mahmoud arrived on Lampedusa by boat last week after departing by boat from the coastal governorate of Kafr El-Sheikh, carrying nothing but medical documents describing the condition of his seven-year-old brother.

International organisations have reoprted that many Egyptians and migrants of other nationalities are travelling via smuggling boats from Egypt's north coast to Italy. The majority of the Egyptian migrants are minors.

The Italian paper reported last week that Ahmed, upon his arrival, asked authorities to provide him with a job so he can pay for the medical bills of his brother Farid, who is suffering from thrombocytopenia. The Italian government decided to bring in Ahmed's family and treat Farid at no cost to the family.

The first official reaction from the Egyptian side came on Friday from health minister Ahmed Emad, who stressed that Farid's family didn't request state-sponsored treatment for their son.

Emad called on his family to contact his office and said he would personally communicate with them to ensure that Farid would get treatment in Egypt.

Later in the day, foreign ministry spokesperson Ahmed Abu Zeid urged the family to follow Emad's instructions.

"There is room for whoever wants to receive any sort of care or treatment in the country," Abu Zeid told Dream TV.

"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."

The International Organisation for Migration said in June that Egypt occupies the tenth place among countries that see irregular migrants travel to Italy, which is symptomatic of a rising trend in Egyptian emigration since the 2011 uprising.

In the first five months of 2016, a total of 1,815 Egyptian irregular migrants landed on Italian shores. Of those migrants, 1,147 were unaccompanied migrant children, making Egypt the top country to see unaccompanied minors arrive in Italy.

The year 2011 saw almost 2,000 migrants arrive in Italy with the number increasing each year to peak at 4,095 irregular migrants in 2014.

"Egypt's economic growth is insufficient to absorb labour market entrants, in turn resulting in high unemployment prompting youth to find work opportunities abroad," IOM Egypt head Amr Taha said.

Healthcare services in Egypt are in theory available to all, but the quality and availability of care is patchy, particularly in public hospitals. 

Egypt allocated EGP 53.3 billion to healthcare spending in this fiscal year's budget, up from EGP 49.3 billion in the previous year, putting healthcare at 1.6 percent of GDP.

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