A mother who wanted her 8-year-old son to have a better life put him on a plane to France, where he has relatives, but authorities have held him at Paris' Charles de Gaulle airport ever since he arrived on March 21 because of his fake identity papers. Along with his Spider-Man backpack, the boy from the island nation of Comoros was allegedly carrying a French passport in his cousin's name, the Guardian reports, and authorities arrested and detained him on suspicion of attempting to enter France illegally. Since then, a French appeals court has ruled the boy, who was supposed to meet his aunt at the Paris airport, should be kept in the airport holding area for his own protection for now, the Local reports.
Children's rights activists say French authorities are breaking international child protection laws by failing to turn the boy over to his relatives in France or send him back to his mother in the Comoros Islands, off the coast of southeast Africa. "What shocks us is that he is shut in," says one child protection lawyer. "Why is he shut in? We’re talking about a place with bars, it’s no place for a child." The boy's mother has asked for him to be returned to her, and French authorities say they're trying to get someone to accompany him back home, but that the Easter holiday caused the process to be delayed. The lawyer says 259 minors traveling alone were kept in the holding area in 2014; adults and children can both be held there for up to 20 days if they arrive in France without papers, after which they are either allowed in or deported. (The boy's homeland is one of the world's least-visited countries.)