Ivory Coast clears homes around airport after stowaway death


Authorities in Ivory Coast evicted thousands of people living near the country’s main airport in response to the death of a 14-year-old boy in the undercarriage of an aircraft earlier this month.

Laurent Barthelemy is believed to have accessed Abidjan airport through the shantytown along the perimeter before jumping a fence.

His body was found when the Air France flight landed in Paris.

Government said it would create a 200 metre security perimeter around the airport to prevent similar incidents and ordered the Adjouffou neighbourhood evacuated.

Ahead of the deadline on Monday, people in Adjouffou, a warren of dilapidated, low-slung houses with some 200 000 residents, gathered their belongings, including tin roofs, mattresses and toilet seats.

Many did not know where to go next.

“We’re leaving, but where are we going to go?” said high school student Epiphanie Djossou. “I left my stuff with family members and don’t know how to get it back so I can go to school.”

Others expressed anger at being forced to leave over the actions of a child from another part of town.

“A child came from Yopougon and because of that we are going to evacuate the entire Adjouffou. Why?” asked Jean Diriga.

At a ceremony last week at the Sant’ Egidio church in Abidjan, family and friends paid tribute to Barthelemy, even as they struggled to explain why he snuck onto the aircraft.

Several stowaways trying to reach Europe from African countries have been reported in recent years, with most dying en route.

“I had never wished for my child to go on such a risky venture,” said his father, Marius Barthelemy. “I gave him what I could and what I thought was necessary for everyday life.”

Air France is investigating Barthelemy’s death.