Advertisement

  1. ITV Report

Thousands sign petition to keep aid worker out of jail

Rob Lawrie tried to smuggle Bahar from the jungle refugee camp to relatives in Leeds after her father pleaded with him to take her in his van Credit: ITV News

Thousands of people have signed a petition asking the UK Government to help an aid worker from Leeds facing jail in France for trying to smuggle a four-year-old girl out of a refugee camp in Calais.

Rob Lawrie was arrested at the French border as he tried to bring Afghan refugee Bahar Ahmadi to relatives in England last month.

Mr Lawrie, who was delivering aid to a camp known as "The Jungle", will appear in court in Boulogne in January next year and faces up to five years in prison.

Almost 18,000 people have signed a petition to keep Mr Lawrie out of jail Credit: Website

More than 17,000 people have signed the "Spare Rob Lawrie from prison" petition, which calls on Foreign Secretary Philip Hammond to speak to the French authorities about clemency in Mr Lawrie's case.

Jim Innes, who created the campaign, wrote on the 38 Degrees website: "Rob shouldn't be treated as a criminal but as an ordinary man trying to do the right thing in extraordinary circumstances."

More than 700 people have also joined a Facebook group called "Support Rob Lawrie".

Mr Lawrie said he felt "truly humbled" by the support he had received from across the world and urged people to help refugees like Bahar - who is known as Bru.

Refugees at the camp in Calais, also known as the "New Jungle" Credit: Press Association

He has also set up a Crowdfunder campaign to raise money to help bring Bahar to the UK and to build shelters for others refugees facing winter in the camps.

Mr Lawrie said on the website:

Bru is a child of The Jungle in Calais. She represents all that is wrong with the refugee crisis.

She has family living in Leeds and yet, after fleeing war in Afghanistan with her daddy, she can go no further than Calais.

Please support her quest for freedom. She is a four-year-old facing winter in a tent.

– Rob Lawrie

Mr Lawrie said he was an "idiot" for his actions, but said he acted on his paternal instincts.

He described The Jungle refugee camp as a "chemical dump" and compared it to a cross between a Mumbai tip and Glastonbury Festival after four days of rain.

Four-year-old Bahar Credit: ITV News

Mr Lawrie described how Bahar's father put his daughter to bed in a storage compartment in his van and said he felt "elated" at the thought of being able to bring the little girl to her family in this country.

But he was stopped by police because, unknown to him, two refugees had stowed away in the back of his van. Bahar was returned to her father in the camp.

I know I'm an idiot. I know I did wrong. But in that one moment when she fell asleep on my lap, rational thought went out of my head and paternal instinct kicked in.

I'm not saying 'Look at me, I'm a hero', I'm saying 'I did it the wrong way, let's try and find the right way because whatever way we do, this is not right.

– Rob Lawrie