Authorities in Normandy have arrested an Islamic imam amid an investigation into his alleged activities aiding migrants to illegally cross the English Channel to Britain.
The imam – who entered France as a ‘refugee’ – along with an accomplice from his mosque in Rouen, France, admitted to providing assistance to migrants to facilitate their journeys, including supplying them with inflatable rafts, La Voix Du Nord reports.
“According to investigations, the two men, aged 39 and 29, have organized several illegal crossings of the Channel since December 27, 2018,” the paper reports. “All departing from the northern coastline, between Bray-Dunes and Audresselles.”
After 96 hours in custody, the men appeared in the Criminal Court of Boulogne, where they requested time to prepare their defense.
Despite a prosecutorial appeal to keep the men detained, they were released under ‘judicial supervision’ until their June 3 hearing.
French police recently deployed a new drone patrol unit to monitor the Channel after a steady increase of illegal migrants and human traffickers began attempting to cross from France to Britain in the fall of 2018.
Hundreds of migrants have reached England via the Channel since November 2018, and some authorities believe this is just a preview of what is to come as the weather improves.
“The sea is like a duck pond,” said retired coastguard officer Andy Roberts. “This is going to carry on and on. There will be lots more to come. The weather is so great for them. It’s a perfect time for them.”
In January, a woman living near Kent discovered three migrant men who had just illegally completed the Channel crossing standing in her front yard.
by Dan Lyman