An unaccompanied eight-year-old has spent the last 10 days living at an airport in Paris after he tried to enter France with false identity papers. The boy, from the Comoros Islands in the Indian Ocean, had been placed on the flight by his mother and was expecting to join relatives in France when he arrived.
The unnamed child carrying just a Spiderman backpack was arrested by customs officials at Roissy-Charles de Gaulle airport on 21 March. He was detained in an airport holding area, ordinarily used for adults suspected of committing similar offences.
French media say that he was put on the plane on the islands, off the coast of Africa, by his mother hoping that he would have a better life in France. He allegedly produced a French passport in the name of his cousin.
The boy was presented to a French appeal court on 25 March that ruled he must be held in a "waiting zone" for his own protection. The decision made by French authorities has come in to question by children's rights campaigners who believe they have broken international child protection laws.
But Catherine Daoud, a child protection lawyer, told French radio according to The Guardian: "The imprisoning of children in the [airport] waiting area, especially young children like this, is against the international convention on child protection signed and ratified by France."
"It's shocking to see a young kid stuck in the same basket as the adults and with the police ... for the child it's a prison. What shocks us is that he is shut in ... we're talking about a place with bars, it's no place for a child."
She added that 259 lone minors had been kept in the holding area of France's busiest airport in 2014. With no correct papers suspects can be held for 20 days before being admitted or deported.
The French interior ministry said the boy's mother had now asked for her child to be sent back to the Comoros Islands. They added that the Easter holidays had delayed the process of sending him home and they wanted to organise for someone to accompany him back.
A spokesman told the newspaper: "The judge for liberty and detention decided it was in the boy's best interest to keep him in the waiting zone until inquiries could be made. The French authorities made contact with his family and his mother said she wanted to take this young boy back.
"Obviously he is being correctly treated and is with someone from the Red Cross [at the airport]. We want this child to be returned to his country of origin as his mother has requested, but accompanied."