An Algerian couple who lost their wedding bands in a deadly shipwreck off the coast of Lampedusa, Italy, last month have been shocked to see the rings recovered weeks later, along with the last of their few possessions.
In late October, Ahmed, 25, and Doudou, 20, were among dozens of migrants and asylum seekers to be rescued by a fisherman after the boat they were travelling on from Libya, where Ahmed had been working, capsized.
At least five people onboard the boat, including a young child, did not survive the shipwreck and both Ahmed and Doudou, who did not wish for their last names to be shared, felt lucky to escape with their lives.
They never expected to see their wedding bands, which had been tucked into a backpack for safekeeping, again, believing the invaluable rings to be forever lost at sea.
That all changed this month, however, when a rescue ship operated by NGO Open Arms came across remnants of the crash, including the backpack.
It was a longshot, but noticing that the rings had been inscribed with two names, rescue ship operators decided to put out a call with relief providers on the ground, asking them to see if any survivors of the recent crash might be able to identify the rings.
Ahmad Al Rousan, a cultural mediator working with Médecins Sans Frontières, was one of the relief providers to be sent a picture of the rings.
Initially, he told The Independent, he did not believe their owners would be found.
“I told them, ‘its’ really very difficult,'” he said. However, he put out the call anyway, forwarding the photo on to the migrants and asylum seekers he had met following the October crash.
He was shocked, he said, when one of the people he had provided support to following the crash, Ahmed, responded right away.
“I was really very surprised,” Al Rousan said. “Open Arms finds this bag in the Mediterranean and then it belongs to someone that we met. It’s really something.”
In a statement shared with The Independent through MSF, Ahmed said: “As soon as they showed us the photos I couldn't believe it. We had lost everything and now the few things we had set out with have been found. It's incredible."
However, Ahmed said he and his wife will never forget how much was lost that day in the October shipwreck.
“We were lucky. We are very happy, but we are still mourning our friends who didn’t make it,” he said.
Al Rousan said that while the discovery of the rings has offered the couple a small moment of relief, the trauma of their experience is likely to stay with them in the years to come.
Over the past year, Europe has seen a rise in the number of people risking the journey in small boats.
A recent BBC analysis found that nearly 8,000 people have so far made the journey across the Channel to reach the UK alone.