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Migrant dedicates life to saving others crossing the seas

On Christmas Eve in 2001, Hassan Ali, then a 13-year-old migrant from Egypt, was saved from a capsizing dinghy when he was crossing the Mediterranean Sea to reach Europe. After spending time in a refugee camp in Sicily, Italy, Ali decided to dedicate his life to saving other migrants from drowning on similar journeys. Ivette Feliciano reports.

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  • HARI SRENIVASAN:

    For decades, migrants have risked crossing the Mediterranean for a chance at a new life in Europe and beyond.

    Many are children.

    On Christmas Eve in 2001 a thirteen year-old Egyptian boy –Hassan Ali–was saved from a capsizing dinghy.

    After being sent to a refugee camp in Sicily–where he learned Italian–Ali decided to devote his life to rescuing others.

    Newshour Weekend's Ivette Feliciano has the story.

  • IVETTE FELICIANO:

    One day in August, the crew of the rescue ship Aquarius locates a small wooden boat filled with migrants drifting in the Mediterranean.

    Hassan Ali helps move the stranded passengers to a rescue dinghy.

    Ali has made this his life's work after a man he will never know saved him from drowning on a similar journey.

  • HASSAN ALI:

    The only thing I remember is that a person pulled me out of the capsizing boat he put me on his shoulders and I saw this person descending slowly under water at a certain point I was already safe and he drowned in front of my eyes. I did not know him, I knew nothing about him, so simply I never can find the right words for his act.

  • IVETTE FELICIANO:

    Many of today's migrants speak Ali's native Arabic, making him an important part of the team trying to get them to safety.

  • HASSAN ALI:

    This sea has taken away a lot of lives. Actually, people have become used to hearing that thirty people died here or that forty people died there.

  • IVETTE FELICIANO:

    Italy's current government is refusing to take many of the migrants crossing the Mediterranean unless other e-u countries take more of them.

    It's a policy this young survivor turned rescuer disagrees with.

  • HASSAN ALI:

    Nobody must die because we have all the means to save them and if they die it means that someone is to blame and that someone will have to answer to god, however you want to call that God."

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