Home Affairs finally says autistic boy can return to SA
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.