Rob Lawrie, 49, is facing up to 5 years in prison or fines up to £ 20, 000, because he tried to smuggle a 4 year old migrant girl from “Calais Jungle” to join her family members in Leeds.
He said: “I do regret it because it has cost me everything. It has cost me my family and it’s financially bankrupt me.” The former soldier from Guiseley, West Yorkshire, said taking the child was a moment of madness, but his paternal instinct kicked in.
He said: “At that point I can truly say for the first point in my life that all rational thought left me.”
In October, when Mr. Lawrie saw pictures of the Syrian refugee toddler Aylan washed up on the shores of Turkey he decided he needs to act on it. He didn’t how how he could help, but knew he had to do something to help the people in need. He closed his carpet cleaning business, bought a transit van and headed to migrant camps in Dunkirk and Calais, where he delivered tents, and helped build temporary structures.
Mr Lawrie struck up a friendship with the four-year-old Afghan migrant Bahar Ahmadi, whom he affectionately refers to as Bru. She followed him around the camp every day, playing games in ‘The Jungle’ of Calais.
He said: “She’s a special little girl. She’s become almost representative of child refugees. After all the months I spent with her, I never saw her without a smile,” he said with tears in his eyes.
When the toddler’s father Reza asked him to take the young girl to live with a relative in Leeds, Mr Lawrie initially declined, even though he lived just a few miles away.
On the final night before returning home, Mr Lawrie was overcome with emotion when Bahar curled up on his lap and fell asleep.
The father-of-four said: “I just did it because I could no longer see her live in this squalid environment, it was just ridiculous. I just couldn’t do that anymore.”
“It was done on the spur of the moment about compassion, Yes I was compassionately right, but it was illegal – end of, it was illegal.”
He hid the young girl in a sleeping compartment in his van on October 24 and set off towards Britain.
He got arrested by the French police and Bahar got returned to her father in the camp,while Mr. Lawrie is to appear in court on January 14th. Since his arrest there have been several petitions filed, with more than 150 thousand signatures gathered, to keep Mr. Lawrie out of prison.
Britain received claims from 5,095 main applicants and dependants seeking asylum in October, according to statistics published by the EU’s data agency.
Press Association analysis shows it is the highest total for any month since current records began in January 2009 and nearly double the number recorded at the start of last year.It suggests that migrants and their families applied to stay in this country as refugees at a rate of 164 every day.
There was a dramatic jump in claims last year as the international migration crisis escalated.