Leeds & West Yorkshire

Plea for intervention over Guiseley refugee 'smuggler' case

Rob Lawrie
Image caption Rob Lawrie said he knew it was the "wrong thing" to attempt to smuggle the girl into the UK

A petition set up in support of an ex-soldier charged with trying to smuggle a four-year-old refugee into the UK has attracted more than 9,000 signatures.

Rob Lawrie, 49, from Guiseley, faces up to five years in jail if convicted of attempting to bring the girl from the "Jungle" migrant camp near Calais, to Leeds where she has relatives.

It urges the Foreign Office to seek clemency from the French authorities.

The government said it had contacted French police about the incident.

Speaking to BBC Radio 5 Live Mr Lawrie said he had first met the Afghan girl, who he knew as "Bahar", when he travelled to France to provide aid to refugees.

"[Her father] had asked me a few times to take her and I had always said no, then, on my last journey we were sat round a campfire and Bahar was sat on my knee and she just snuggled in and fell asleep in my lap, " he said

"It was one of those moments and I just said, 'This is no life for a four-year-old' and all rationality left me and I knew what I had to do."

Mr Lawrie hid Bahar in a compartment above the driver's seat of his Transit van.

He was stopped by border officials who discovered two Eritrean boys who had sneaked into the vehicle unbeknownst to him.

Mr Lawrie was arrested and, after Bahar was discovered, she was returned to the camp.

Image copyright PHILIPPE HUGUEN/AFP/Getty Images
Image caption Thousands of people live in makeshift camps set up near Calais

Mr Lawrie, who is due in court in France in January, said: "You do not need to tell me I'm an idiot, I know I'm an idiot.

"I did the wrong thing, I've got no doubt and I'm going to apologise to the French court.

"I'm not saying 'Look at me, I'm a hero' I'm saying 'I did it the wrong way, lets try and find out the right way'."

Giving his reaction to the petition he told BBC Look North: "It really does support me and it gives me strength."

A Foreign Office spokesman said: "We have been in contact with French police regarding Mr Lawrie's arrest, and are ready to provide consular assistance if requested."

More on this story

Related Internet links

The BBC is not responsible for the content of external Internet sites