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A Child Adrift


A Child Adrift

Mahmoud wanted an education so badly he risked his life at sea. The epic journey of a 9-year-old refugee from Syria – Part 1
17 April 2014
Mahmoud reads to his sister Bisam, 2, during their time in Cairo.

After fleeing the conflict in Syria, Mahmoud and his family settled in Egypt, renting a small flat in the suburbs of Cairo. But as Egypt struggled with its own internal divisions, public opinion turned against Syrians and Mahmoud was bullied and beaten. Afraid and unable to attend school, he refused to leave his family's apartment. "I wanted to leave because there is no school here and I don't have friends," the young boy said in 2013. "They hit me all the time."

Mahmoud's father, Mohamed, eventually he took the harrowing decision to put his son on an illegal boat to Italy, alone. "No one sends their son out into the world alone unless they live in real fear," he later explained. "Our lives are too difficult here." But the boat Mahmoud took was fired upon before it even left Egyptian waters. The young boy then spent the next five days in a detention centre without his family. When he returned to Cairo the bullying resumed but he remained resolute.

"I have a dream that one day we will have a new house in a better place," he said. "I will go to school and make new friends."

Watch the second part of Mahmoud's remarkable story: Safe Harbour