Belfast Telegraph

Thursday 25 December 2014

Plane stowaway reunited with father

A teenage boy survived a five-hour flight from California to Hawaii after climbing into the wheel well of a Boeing 767
A teenage boy survived a five-hour flight from California to Hawaii after climbing into the wheel well of a Boeing 767

The father of a 15-year-old boy who stowed away in a jetliner's wheel well has arrived in Hawaii, officials said.

Abdilahi Yusuf, from California, arrived in Honolulu where his son Yahya Abdi i s in hospital after being transferred to state custody from Maui airport, where he was questioned by FBI and airport officials following the April 20 flight.

Hawaii Department of Human Services said its child welfare unit will not disclose any information on the release of Yahya because of privacy concerns and confidentiality.

Yahya survived a five and a half-hour flight from San Jose, California, to Maui after scaling an airport fence and climbing into the wheel well of a Boeing 767. He has not spoken publicly about the ordeal that raised questions about airport security and revealed the personal family drama of a Somali immigrant struggling to adjust to life in the US.

Yahya, who lives in Santa Clara, with his father, stepmother and siblings, had been unhappy in California and desperately missed his mother, according family friends.

His mother lives in a refugee camp in eastern Ethiopia. Ubah Mohammed Abdule said the boy longed to see her, but could not because his father did not allow contact and had told him she was dead.

The boy's sister Najma Abdi has rejected reported claims by their birth mother that the father took the children away from her and mistreated them.

Mr Yusuf said in a statement on Sunday that his son was "struggling adjusting to life" in the US.

"Our situation was aggravated by our displacement in Africa for many years after fleeing our home country of Somalia because of war conditions. As a result, my son was not able to receive any formal education before we immigrated to the United States," the statement said.

A spokeswoman for the UN High Commissioner for Refugees, Fati Lejeune Kaba, said an acquaintance at the mother's camp contacted Yahya and his siblings late last year with news that their mother was alive.

Ms Kaba said: "The kids were very disappointed, and ended up in a fight with their father, and asked him to send them back to where their mother lived. The father still insisted that their mother had died.

"At that point, Yahya Abdi didn't believe that his mother had died, and that's when he resorted to do everything he can to go and find her."

Mr Yusuf said he is "excited to bring him back home to his family in California". The family was "deeply concerned" when the boy went missing and was relieved to hear he was safe, he added.

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