Aircrafts roll on the taxiway at Roissy airport outside Paris, France | Photo: EPA/YOAN VALAT
Aircrafts roll on the taxiway at Roissy airport outside Paris, France | Photo: EPA/YOAN VALAT

A child stowaway was found dead Wednesday in the undercarriage of an Air France plane at a Paris airport, officials said. The discovery has sparked outrage worldwide.

The dead child was discovered on January 8 in the landing gear of an Air France plane in Paris. The aircraft had travelled to Charles De Gaulle airport from Abidjan, in the Ivory Coast. 

The child stowaway was only around 10 years old, according to investigative sources. The child had hidden in the undercarriage of the Boeing 777 in Abidjan, hoping to reach Europe. He was wearing light clothes when his lifeless body was discovered at dawn on Wednesday, after flying the previous night without oxygen, at temperatures that can plummet as low as -50C. He is thought to have died from cold or asphyxiation during the flight, which lasts about six and a half hours. 

Air France has confirmed that the body was found on board flight AF703, which left the west African country on 7 January. 

Unidentified victim 

There is currently no information on the child's identity. The child somehow succeeded in breaching security at the Ivorian airport, hiding in the well of the landing gear, which is neither heated nor pressurized. The child spent the night there, although it is unlikely he survived beyond the first hour of the flight, when the plane reaches a cruising altitude of 9,000-10,000 meters. 

After the body was discovered in the morning of January 8, Air France expressed "deepest sympathy and compassion for this human tragedy." French authorities have launched an investigation. 

Such stowaway attempts, which are nearly impossible to survive, have been made in the past. The last one registered in France dated back to April 2013, when the body of a teenager was discovered in the landing gear of a plane that landed at Charles De Gaulle airport in Paris from Cameroon. 

Ivorian aviation sources on Wednesday highlighted the ''major failing of security at the airport Felix Houphouet-Boigny in Abidjan." 

A tragedy that 'can't leave us indifferent' 

NGOS and associations representing migrants' rights have expressed shock. Rome-based Catholic charity Community of Sant'Egidio said such a tragedy ''can't leave us indifferent." 

"This tragedy, similar to the one involving two Guinean teens, Yaguine and Fodé, who died in August 1999 on a plane taking them to Belgium, must drive Europe to listen to Africa's cry for help'', the charity said in a statement. The organization said Europe needs to promote ''in a concrete and urgent way'' Africa's development while African countries must ''take care of the many youths who are asking for an education, work, a future."

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