HONOLULU (AP) — The father of a 15-year-old boy who stowed away in a jetliner’s wheel well has arrived on the islands from California, a Hawaii official said Tuesday.
Spokeswoman Kayla Rosenfeld of the Hawaii Department of Human Services that Abdilahi Yusuf has arrived in Honolulu. Rosenfeld said the department’s child welfare unit won’t disclose any information on the release of Yahya Abdi because of privacy concerns and confidentiality.
Rosenfeld had said previously that Abdi was in a Honolulu hospital after being transferred to state custody from the Maui airport, where he was questioned by FBI and airport officials following the April 20 flight.
A spokeswoman for the Council on American-Islamic Relations in San Francisco who had been speaking for the family declined comment beyond reiterating a statement earlier this week that Yusuf wanted to see his son soon.
Abdi survived a 5 1/2-hour flight from San Jose, Calif., to Maui after hopping 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 United States.
Abdi, who lives in Santa Clara, Calif., with his father, stepmother and siblings, had been unhappy in California and desperately missed his mother, according to those who know his family.
His mother lives a stick hut covered in a refugee camp in eastern Ethiopia. Ubah Mohammed Abdule told The Associated Press that the boy longed to see her, but couldn’t because his father told him she was dead and didn’t allow contact.
The boy’s sister Najma Abdi said Monday that their birth mother was lying, and that the father didn’t take the children away from her or mistreat them.
Yusuf said in a statement Sunday that his son was “struggling adjusting to life” in America.
“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 U.N. High Commissioner for Refugees, Fati Lejeune Kaba, said an acquaintance at the mother’s camp contacted Abdi and his siblings late last year with news their mother was alive.
“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,” Kaba said. “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,” Kaba said.
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, Yusuf said.