A FLIGHT heading for Málaga from the Spanish-owned city-province of Melilla on the northern Moroccan coast was delayed after an African teenager was found in the hold.
The Air Nostrum flight – the national arm of the Iberia fleet – was due to take off at 14.55 on Sunday, after a long refuelling stop en route from Fez, Morocco, to allow passengers to get off and have lunch.
Ground staff found the youth when transferring luggage from the Fez plane to the one heading for Málaga.
It turned out the lad had been taken into the Fuerte Purísima children's shelter in Melilla on December 18 after trying to cross the border from Morocco illegally.
He claimed to be 17 years old, meaning as a minor, he is automatically given a greater standard of care than an adult migrant, but he will have to undergo forensic tests to confirm.
Young Africans trying to reach mainland Europe by crossing the border from Morocco into Melilla and then sneaking into the luggage hold of an aircraft are rare, although some 1,500 have been caught in the last year trying to do so on ferries.
Melilla's children's shelters house over 500 unaccompanied foreign minors, but many prefer to live on the street until they can get to the mainland.