A homeless illegal immigrant who leapt into the River Tiber in Rome
to rescue a woman who was drowning has been rewarded with a year's permit to remain in the city.
Sobuj Khalifa, a Muslim Bangladeshi, did not hesitate to rescue the 55-year-old woman, who turned out to be an Israeli Jew living in Rome.
She had jumped into the river in an apparent suicide bid.Mr Khalifa, 32, leapt in after her and managed to rescue her."I saw a body in the water and at first I thought it was a big fish but then I saw it was a person. I ran along the banks as she was being carried along by the current.
"People were watching from a bridge and I yelled, telling them to call for help. Then I dived into the river without even taking off my shoes. I wasn't afraid."
He managed to pull the woman, who was still conscious, to safety.
The Rome authorities granted Sobuj Khalifa a one-year residence permit (Questura di Roma)
Mr Khalifa has been living rough on the streets of Rome since 2008, eking out a living selling roses to diners in restaurants and umbrellas to pedestrians when it rains.
He was initially granted a permit to live in the city, but it expired long ago and he was living in Italy illegally.
He told police that he earned just 50 euros a week and that he sent some of the money back to his mother in Bangladesh, who is seriously ill.
The Rome authorities were so impressed with his heroism that they granted him a one-year residence permit which will enable him to continue to live in the city legally.
He even received a phone call of congratulations from Ignazio Marino, the mayor of Rome.
"I was very moved, I've never felt so happy," he told the Italian press.
"I learned to swim back in my home country. We have the sea but we also have floods all year round. If you don't swim, you die."
Despite being lauded, he has now gone back to living rough along the banks of the Tevere.
Along with other homeless people, he sleeps near the entrance of the Cloaca Massima, an ancient Roman drain that still disgorges water into the Tiber.
It is just a few hundred yards from where the rescue took place.