An imam working in the French city of Rouen was arrested along with another individual on suspicion of aiding the illegal migration of individuals across the English Channel.
The imam, who came to France seeking asylum as a political refugee, and one other who is also reported to be of the Muslim faith, were arrested in Normandy on April 30th after investigators alleged that the two men, aged 39 and 29, had been helping migrants cross the English Channel since December 2018, French newspaper La Voix du Nord reports.
Most of the crossings took place in either Bray-Dunes, which lies next to Belgium, or the commune of Audresselles which lies just outside of Calais. Investigators say the pair also admitted to providing either six or seven inflatable boats to migrants trying to make the voyage to the UK.
The accused appeared before Boulogne Criminal Court on Monday but claimed that they both need more time to properly prepare their defence and the court granted their request, adjourning the proceedings until June 3rd.
The prosecutor attempted to have them held in custody until the next hearing but the court denied the request.
Following a number of landings and attempted crossings last December, British Home Secretary Sajid Javid called for, “an urgent call with his French counterpart over the weekend to reaffirm the continuing need for the UK and France to work closely together to tackle the problem.”
On Christmas day alone, around 40 migrants were picked up by the British Border Force in five separate incidents in the channel.
Earlier this year, undercover reporters revealed that the people traffickers aiding the illegal migrants were boasting to them that they would be guaranteed to get to the UK and never be sent back. One Afghan man named Aanam even bragged about helping at least 300 migrants cross into the UK illegally.