A four-year-old migrant girl who arrived in Italy alone from North Africa had an emotional reunion with her mother on Monday, months after a lucky break helped authorities trace the woman.
The pair embraced at Palermo airport, where the mother, named as Zanabou, landed from Tunisia, almost five months after the girl, identified only as Oumoh, was plucked from a rickety boat in the Mediterranean by the Italian coastguard.
Oumoh’s mother, took the girl from their family home in Ivory Coast to save her from female genital mutilation, police said.
Upon arriving in Tunisia, Zanabou entrusted the child to a friend and headed back home to fetch some belongings. Before she returned, the friend left for Italy with the girl, but the two were separated on the voyage, police said.
Oumoh was eventually saved at sea and brought to the southern Italian island of Lampedusa by the coastguard last November. Her identity remained a mystery for a few days until another girl recognised a photo of her while playing with the phone of the head of Lampedusa’s reception centre. Authorities were then able to trace the mother who had returned to Tunisia.
So far this year more than 21,000 migrants have arrived in Italy, up 50 percent from about 14,000 in the same period last year.
The number includes more than 2,000 unaccompanied minors, but lone children as young as Oumoh are a rare sight.