Having been separated for months, a woman from Ivory Coast and her five-year-old son have been reunited in the Italian city of Reggio Emilia. They were helped by the determination and compassion of a young woman.
A migrant mother and her five-year-old son's "odyssey" ended on 22 December with what has already been dubbed the "Christmas Hug." The two had been apart for eight months after a Mediterranean crossing. Their story was told in detail on the website of the City of Reggio Emilia.
The City of Reggio Emilia Social Services learned about the mother and son's story last June, when a young woman and a five-year-old boy came to the emergency room at Santa Maria Hospital. The young woman said they were from Ivory Coast, and that the boy didn't feel well.
She first said that she was his mother, then his aunt, then, in the end, she told another story: that she wasn't related to him at all. Rather, the boy's mother was a woman she had met during her journey from the Ivory Coast to Tunisia, where they boarded a boat for Italy.
While others were boarding the rickety boat, the mother was blocked by the crowd, and her son got on the boat along with the young woman, who promised the mother she would stay with him until the boat's arrival.
After the crossing, the young woman arrived in Reggio Emilia, without documents, without a place to stay, and with a child that was not her own.
Once the young woman's story was verified during checks, the two were taken to a facility used to host migrant mothers with children.
A hug after eight months
The boy's mother came to Italy in August and was hosted at a reception centre in Agrigento, where she managed to get into contact with the young woman. From that time on, the mother began a series of video calls with her son in which she so clearly showed her affection for the boy that Italian authorities were convinced that she was his mother. She was then permitted to begin the process of reunification with her son, which, after a series of bureaucratic hurdles, took place on 22 December.
She is now waiting for the court to rule on whether she and her son can live together at the facility hosting her. The young woman who took care of the boy has been welcomed at a facility for asylum seekers where she will begin her own personal journey.