Home Af­fairs fi­nally says autis­tic boy can re­turn to SA

The Star Early Edition - - NEWS - ILANIT CHERNICK ilanit.chernick@inl.co.za @Lanc_02

AF­TER five months of anx­i­ety and stress for Alexan­der Had­dow and his par­ents, the autis­tic teenager will fi­nally be able to re­turn to South Africa – as long as he does so on his South African pass­port.

The 14-year-old South African was forced to sign a dec­la­ra­tion of un­de­sir­abil­ity at OR Tambo In­ter­na­tional Air­port in Au­gust while trav­el­ling to the UK on his Bri­tish doc­u­ments be­cause his South African pass­port had ex­pired.

This left the fright­ened teenager un­able to re­turn to his fam­ily in South Africa since the trau­matic in­ci­dent.

A dec­la­ra­tion of un­de­sir­abil­ity can carry a ban on re­turn­ing to South Africa for up to five years.

The Star first broke the story in Novem­ber af­ter the fam­ily made mul­ti­ple at­tempts to con­tact the Depart­ment of Home Af­fairs (DHA) about the sit­u­a­tion in Au­gust, but did not re­ceive a re­sponse.

The Star was in­cluded in sev­eral of those com­mu­ni­ca­tion at­tempts, but it was only yes­ter­day that the DHA re­sponded to the fam­ily.

DHA spokesper­son May­ihlome Tsh­wete em­pha­sised that a South African cit­i­zen can­not be de­clared un­de­sir­able.

“We un­der­stand his South African pass­port ex­pired, he has dual cit­i­zen­ship and that he has been in­ter­chang­ing pass­ports and us­ing his Bri­tish pass­port to en­ter and exit the coun­try.

“As a South African cit­i­zen he must en­ter and exit the coun­try on his South African pass­port. Our ad­vice to the par­ents is to please re­new his pass­port or ap­ply for an emer­gency pass­port at the em­bassy,” he said.

Tsh­wete said the sit­u­a­tion arose be­cause Alexan­der had en­tered South Africa on his Bri­tish pass­port fol­low­ing his last visit to the UK. “He came in as a Bri­tish cit­i­zen, so by do­ing so, when he left, to the im­mi­gra­tion of­fi­cer (it ap­peared) he had over­stayed. The im­mi­gra­tion of­fi­cer was not aware of his con­di­tion.

“The in­ci­dent was un­for­tu­nate and we are apolo­getic for what this child had to go through,” he said.

Tsh­wete said they were us­ing this op­por­tu­nity to ap­peal to South Africans with dual cit­i­zen­ship to use their lo­cal doc­u­ments when en­ter­ing and ex­it­ing the coun­try.

In Au­gust, Alexan­der – af­fec­tion­ately known as Sasha by his fam­ily – was trav­el­ling to Eng­land to visit his fa­ther for school­ing pur­poses.

“Be­ing autis­tic, he has the de­vel­op­men­tal level of a fiveyear-old. He can’t be asked too many ques­tions,” ex­plained his mom, Tanya Gold­berg.

Autism is a life­long, de­vel­op­men­tal dis­abil­ity that af­fects how a per­son com­mu­ni­cates with and re­lates to other peo­ple, and how they ex­pe­ri­ence the world around them.

Gold­berg ex­plained that there aren’t many schools lo­cally that cater for autis­tic chil­dren, which led his par­ents to de­cide to send him to his fa­ther in Eng­land, where he has been en­rolled in a spe­cial school.

“Sasha is do­ing ex­tremely well at school, and the school is very pleased with him, but he misses home.

“He feels anx­ious and sad that he isn’t al­lowed to come back. I have to re­peat and re­peat to him that ev­ery­thing will be okay,” Gold­berg said.

Al­though re­lieved by the news from the DHA, Gold­berg added she would not con­sider the sit­u­a­tion re­solved un­til she’d re­ceived it in writing from the depart­ment.

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