0118 GMT March 02, 2021
“We thought it was proof of yet another love story that ended up at the bottom of the sea,” said Riccardo Gatti, the president of the NGO Open Arms in Italy, who recovered the personal items, theguardian.com reported.
“Unfortunately we find many of these. Most of the time suitcases and bags, floating in the sea, are nothing more than symbols of yet another journey that began in Libya and ended in tragedy.”
Nevertheless, as it always does, Open Arms activated a procedure to try to trace the owners of the belongings by sharing the photos on their social channels and among their networks of contacts. “What happened next was exciting,” Gatti said.
Thanks to an article published in the newspaper La Repubblica that carried photos of the rings, the charity Doctors Without Borders (MSF) discovered they belonged to a newlywed Algerian couple, Ahmed, 25, and Doudou, 20.
The couple, who were staying at a reception center in Sicily, were among 15 survivors of a shipwreck that took place off the coast of the island of Lampedusa on October 21.
“As soon as they showed us the photos of the rings, I couldn’t believe it,” Ahmed said in a message passed on by MSF. ‘‘We had lost everything and now the few things we set out with on the journey have been found. It’s incredible.
“The rings were in the backpack because they had broken and we wanted to have them repaired once we arrived in Europe,” Ahmed added. ‘’None of my travel companions managed to recover anything. We are very happy but we are still mourning our friends who didn’t make it.”
Ahmed and Doudou told aid workers that they had left Zawiya in Libya on a small wooden boat with 20 other people on 19 October. Forty-eight hours into the crossing, however, their petrol ran out and the boat was left at the mercy of the sea, with weather conditions starting to deteriorate.
Ester Russo, a psychologist at MSF who spoke to the couple, said survivors from the shipwreck had told of a big wave that hit about 60km off Lampedusa.
“The 15 people onboard were saved by a Sicilian fishing boat,” Russo said.
The backpack containing their rings is still onboard the Open Arms ship. which is off the coast of Sicily.
“We washed everything in the backpack onboard, including clothes and T-shirts,” said Gatti.
“We can’t wait to deliver it to Ahmed and Doudou. It was a strong emotion for us too. It’s not just about objects. These bags that we often find are all these people have. Like these rings, a symbol of a love that fortunately, at least this time, the Mediterranean has spared.”