An aid worker and former soldier potentially facing jail in France for trying to smuggle a four-year-old Afghan girl in to Britain should be shown “clemency” by authorities, a supporter said.
Father-of-four Rob Lawrie, 49, has said he will admit illegally trying to get Bahar Ahmadi – known as Bru – into the UK hidden in his van, when he appears in court in Boulogne today.
Fellow refugee volunteer Jim Innes, who got to known Mr Lawrie through Facebook, started a UK petition on his behalf which gained more than 52,000 signatures asking the Government to intercede on his behalf and was delivered to the Foreign Office last week.
Mr Innes said that what his fellow Yorkshireman had done was illegal but “morally the right thing to do”.
Speaking in The Jungle refugee camp near Calais, while delivering essential items and toys for the children staying there, Mr Innes said: “When I set up the petition I asked for clemency – what we mean by that is not a prison sentence.
“He has already served five days in prison.”
A second petition open to people outside the UK has been signed by around 116,000 people, Mr Innes added.
Mr Lawrie, from Guiseley, Leeds, was stopped in Calais as he returned home in October. The former Army physical training instructor has said he was helping build shelters in The Jungle camp when he got to know Bru, and her father asked him to help get her to close family members living legally in Leeds.
He was caught when British sniffer dogs found two Eritrean men who, unbeknown to him, had stowed in the back of his van.