Refugee who walked through Channel Tunnel walks free from UK court
CANTERBURY, ENGLAND, JUNE 22: A Sudanese man who walked through the Channel Tunnel last year in an extreme example of the desperate measures some refugees are prepared to take to reach Britain, was sentenced to nine months’ jail on Wednesday but will walk free because of time he has already spent in detention.
Abdul Haroun, 40, had pleaded guilty at Canterbury Crown Court to obstructing a railway.
Haroun, who fled his home in the war-torn region of Darfur, was arrested by British police after walking 50 km (30 miles) from France in near total darkness as trains sped by. He was the first refugee known to have made it through the Channel Tunnel on foot.
The court heard he told police he had jumped over the perimeter fence near Calais and dodged the trains by clinging to metal brackets on the walls when he heard them approaching.
“Even if I died, there wasn’t another solution,” he said.
Haroun spent five months in jail until he was granted asylum in December and released on bail the following month, but continued to face a criminal charge under the obscure Malicious Damage Act of 1861.
He had previously pleaded not guilty but changed his plea on Wednesday.
Tunnel operator Eurotunnel and some politicians had called for him to face the full force of the law to deter others from following his example.
But refugee rights campaigners said he should not have been prosecuted for the way he entered a country of sanctuary.