Wedding Rings Lost in Shipwreck Will Be Returned to Migrant Couple

The red backpack had been floating for two weeks in the central Mediterranean between Libya and Italy when a rescue boat came across it. Inside, along with clothes and some notes in Arabic, was a simple treasure: two wedding rings engraved with hearts and the names Ahmed and Doudou.

For rescuers with Open Arms, a nongovernmental organization that picks up migrants making the perilous journey by boat to Europe, the discovery on Nov. 9 was “like a punch,” Riccardo Gatti, the director of Open Arms Italy, said by telephone on Thursday.

Wreckage found later on the day of the discovery only heightened their dread. “We didn’t know if it belonged to someone that died or had a shipwreck — or someone alive,” Mr. Gatti said. “Without knowing anything, you’re holding a piece of a story of someone.”

It might have remained yet another presumed loss in the notoriously perilous Mediterranean crossing that migrants from North Africa have made to reach Europe. “Who are Ahmed and Doudou? ”the Italian newspaper La Repubblica asked.

But in an unusual stroke of luck, the rings will be reunited with their owners, an Algerian couple who survived a capsizing in late October in a boat from Libya and were found two weeks ago by Doctors Without Borders representatives who have been providing support to the migrants in a reception center in Sicily.

When they saw pictures of the newly found rings, they “couldn’t believe it,” the couple, who declined to provide their last names for privacy reasons, said in a statement provided by the organization.

The rings were broken, and Ahmed 25, and Doudou, 20, had wanted to repair them after arriving in Europe. “We had lost everything, and now the few things we had set out with have been found,” they said.

The couple are among 15 survivors of a boat that left Zawiya on the coast of Libya in October. After a two-day journey in the Mediterranean without food or water, the boat ran out of fuel about 40 miles from the Italian island of Lampedusa, according to Doctors Without Borders. As the weather worsened, a wave capsized the ship and five people died, including a 2-year-old girl.

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