Ex-soldier will plead guilty to attempting to smuggle Afghan child into Britain
Caught smuggling a four-year-old Afghan girl into the UK from Calais, former soldier-turned-aid worker Rob Lawrie says he will plead guilty ahead of his hearing in a French court.
The 49-year-old Leeds resident told the IBT he is “preparing for the worst and hoping for the best” ahead of his hearing on January 14.
While building shelters in the Jungle refugee camp in Calais, Lawrie was approached by Bahar Ahmadi’s father and asked if he would deliver the child to relatives in West Yorkshire.
Lawrie, a father of four himself, eventually relented, but was caught by border officers with sniffer dogs, which had detected two Eritrean men hiding in the back of his van.
Lawrie was arrested, at which point he made authorities aware of the child also hidden in the van.
He later described his decision as “moment of madness.”
“All rational thought left me. I thought, ‘How can I leave this little girl here?’”
Lawrie says he could not bear the idea of Ahmadi being left in the Jungle through winter when she had relatives in the UK.
“There’s a family there that can pay for her, educate her, love her, house her. She’ll have her own bedroom. Or, I can give her back to her dad who’s going to put her back in a cold shelter and carry on living like that,” he said.
Lawrie admits he was wrong, but claims he acted on feelings which many aid workers have felt in the camps.
“What I did was highly wrong. It was done on the spur of the moment. It was done in a mind that had no rational thinking going on,” he said.
“Any volunteer that’s been in one of these camps for a period of time will tell you that rational thoughts just leave you, just don’t exist.”
Lawrie faces a potential prison sentence of up to five years and fine of up to £22,500 (US$32,800), but despite losing his wife, his job and becoming bankrupt since his arrest he remains philosophical.
“It’s more unfair to have people living like that than for me to spend five years in prison,” he said.