Migrant who walked the Channel Tunnel goes to court | News | DW | 24.08.2015
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Migrant who walked the Channel Tunnel goes to court

Abdul Rahman Haroun pleaded not guilty to obstruction charges for walking through the tunnel between France and Britain. He was caught as he approached the English side by foot.

A Sudanese migrant appeared in an English court on Monday, charged with obstruction, after breaking into the Channel Tunnel that links France and the UK and walking to Britain.

Abdul Rahman Haroun is the first person to almost complete the 50-kilometer (31-mile) journey on foot, before being caught close to the British exit.

According to British police, he scaled security fences on August 4 - avoiding detection by hundreds of CCTV cameras and search teams with sniffer dogs - and gained access to the tunnel.

The 40-year-old then walked in darkness for 12 hours under the English Channel, while trains sped past him at up to 160 kilometers per hour (100 miles per hour).

Map of the Channel Tunnel

Security has been tightened at the entrances to the 50km rail tunnel that links France and the UK

Haroun has been charged under a law enacted more than 130 years before the rail tunnel opened. He faces a criminal prosecution for "causing an obstruction to an engine or carriage using the railway" under the Malicious Damage Act 1861.

Appearing in court by video link from Elmley Prison, he pleaded not guilty, assisted by an English-Arabic interpreter.

Defense points to UN convention

His lawyer, Nicholas Jones, told the court that the defense would prove not only that Haroun's act did not constitute obstruction, but also that he had been within his rights as a refugee to enter the country by irregular means under the terms of Article 31 of the United Nations Convention on the status of refugees.

Haroun was remanded in custody ahead of further hearings on November 9.

If the case goes to trial, it will start in January.

Migrants cross rail tracks to enter the Channel Tunnel

Over the summer, there have been several security breaches as migrants cut security fences and walked along the rail tracks

Haroun's case is one of the most serious breaches of security in the Channel Tunnel and happened two days after hundreds of migrants tried to storm the underground passage, before being fired upon by riot police with chemical spray.

In recent months, unprecedented numbers of people have attempted to reach Britain from France by lorry or train. On Friday, nearly a dozen migrants were discovered in a UK-bound freight train.

Britain and France have pledged to erect new security fences and send police reinforcements to Calais, on the French side.

mm/kms (AP, Reuters)

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