The Clinton Herald, Clinton, Iowa

World News

April 28, 2014

Stowaway boy's refugee mom cries for son

SHEDDER REFUGEE CAMP, Ethiopiah — The Somali woman lives in a stick hut covered by ragged blankets in this dusty refugee camp. It was here that her 15-year-old son wanted to travel on a perilous journey as a stowaway on a plane from California.

Ubah Mohammed Abdule hasn't seen her boy — who was hospitalized in Hawaii after landing there last week in the wheel well of a jetliner — for eight long years.

Clutching her black-and-white head covering, she wept Sunday as she stood before the flimsy shelter holding her meager possessions and spoke about her son, Yahya Abdi.

She was alarmed, she said, by the dangerous journey the teenager undertook. Those who stow away in wheel wells of airplanes have little chance of surviving, and many who attempt it are Africans desperate for a better life in Europe or America.

Abdi had been unhappy in California and desperately missed his mother, according to those who know his family. So on April 20, he hopped a fence at San Jose International Airport and climbed into the wheel well of a jetliner. It was bound for Hawaii, the opposite direction of Ethiopia. Somehow he survived the 5 ½-hour trip over the Pacific, despite extreme cold and low oxygen levels. He has not spoken publicly about the ordeal.

"I knew he was an intelligent boy who has strong affections for me. I also knew he always wanted to see me, but I know his father won't let them contact me at all," Abdule told an Associated Press reporter in this remote camp in eastern Ethiopia.

The boy had recently learned she was alive after being told by his father that she was dead, Abdule said. She said her ex-husband took Abdi and his two siblings to California without her knowledge and that she hadn't heard from them since 2006.

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