Abdul Haroun was arrested in August after walking nearly 31 miles through tunnel, but charges may now be dropped

Refugees walk on the railway tracks leading to the entrance of the Channel tunnel in Calais.
Refugees walk on the railway tracks leading to the entrance of the Channel tunnel in Calais. Photograph: Philippe Wojazer/Reuters

A Sudanese man who allegedly walked almost the entire length of the 31-mile Channel tunnel from France has been granted asylum in the UK.

Abdul Haroun, who was arrested at the English end of the tunnel in August and charged with obstructing a railway under an obscure 19th-century law, has been held in prison since then. He was to face trial this month.

At a brief hearing at Canterbury crown court, where Harount appeared via video-link from prison and spoke only to confirm his name, the prosecutor Philip Bennetts said the 40-year-old had been granted asylum on 24 December.

Bennetts requested 14 days for the prosecution to consider the effect of this new information on the criminal case, suggesting that the charge against Haroun may be dropped.

Judge Adele Williams granted the request, adjourning the case to 18 January for the prosecution to announce their decision. She also granted Haroun immediate bail after Bennetts made clear the prosecution was not opposing his release.

Haroun has been supported by a small, local refugee rights group which was able to provide him with an address. This address was not disclosed in court.

“We’re delighted that it’s reached this point and we’re hoping the case will be thrown out,” said Kate Adams of Kent Refugee Help.

The judge told Haroun via an interpreter that his bail terms were that he had to live at that address, sleep there every night and report to a local police station every Wednesday during a two-hour window.

Eurotunnel said the granting of asylum to Haroun would encourage others to enter Britain illegally.

“He not only caused significant disruption to Eurotunnel and to the many freight and passenger customers travelling at the time, he also put his own life and that of others at risk,” the company said in a statement.

Haroun’s arrest is the first incident of its kind. He was detected inside the Channel tunnel just over half a mile from the Folkestone terminal. Trains travel at up to 99 mph (160km/h) along the line. He was intercepted in one of the two railway tunnels, rather than the service tunnel that runs through the middle.

Thousands of migrants have been camped out in dire conditions for months near Calais, the entry point of the tunnel on the French side, hoping to get to Britain. Most attempt the crossing by trying to board trains or trucks.

Refugee rights campaigners and immigration lawyers had accused the UK authorities of seeking to make an example of Haroun to deter others from emulating him. The police, prosecution service and immigration authorities have not commented publicly on the case, as is standard when a criminal trial is pending.

The court heard at an earlier hearing that Haroun’s firss language is Zaghawa, suggesting that he may be from Darfur, a region of Sudan ravaged by more than a decade of conflict between government and rebel forces.

[Source:-the gurdian]

By Adam