French Farmer Gets 4-Month Suspended Sentence For Helping Refugees!

10-year-old Farhad Nouri ‘the little Picasso’
10-year-old Farhad Nouri ‘the little Picasso’

A FRENCH farmer hailed as a hero by campaigners for helping refugees enter France ‘illegally’ has been given a four-month suspended jail sentence, after prosecutors argued that an earlier suspended fine was too lenient.

Cédric Herrou was sentenced by an appeal court in Aix-en-Provence, near Marseille in the south of France. He has housed dozens of refugees in caravans on his farm in the Roya valley, in south-east France. In February he received a suspended 3,000 euro (£2,700) fine. Prosecutors had sought an eight-month suspended jail term for Herrou, for helping refugees to slip past police after entering from Italy.

Outside the court, Herrou told reporters: ‘It’s the role of a citizen in a democracy to act when the state is failing. I’d like the judiciary to recognise what’s happening on the ground in the Roya valley, recognise these asylum seekers. What am I to do, really? Kick these people out?’ he added.

He said he had ‘no regrets’ and ‘I won’t be stopped by threats – quite the opposite’. Herrou has become a symbol of ordinary Europeans who have taken action to aid refugees fleeing war or poverty in the Middle East and Africa. He has housed teenagers from Eritrea and Sudan on his property, reports say.

Most of the refugees rescued from overcrowded boats have been sub-Saharan Africans. Many have suffered violence, including rape, but they do not qualify for asylum if they are not considered ‘victims of persecution’.

The UN refugee agency UNHCR says nearly 118,000 have reached southern Europe by sea so far this year, more than 96,500 of whom came ashore in Italy. As many as 1,500 men, women and children did not make the extremely dangerous sea crossing this year and drowned in the Mediterranean.

Meanwhile, since January there have been more than 17,000 recorded attempts by refugees to board UK-bound trucks and trains at the port and Eurotunnel in Calais.

Since 2015 more than 40 refugees have been killed in these incidents. Numbered graves in the north cemetery in Calais are the only physical reminder of the loss.

Last October heavily armed police stormed the Calais camp, home to 10,000 refugees and smashed it up, bulldozing the area. The refugees haven’t gone; they have just moved into the woods. Tents are forbidden, tarpaulin and sleeping bags are confiscated by the police.

The French CRS riot police are using brutal methods to disperse the new arrivals. Officers beat refugees with batons, firing pepper spray in their faces at close range and smashing their phones.

Volunteers are permitted to provide a hot meal for the refugees twice a day. Beth Gardiner-Smith, Senior Campaigns Organiser of charity Safe Passage said: ‘Unaccompanied young people, unaccompanied young children are literally sleeping rough, if they have tarpaulin and sleeping bags they are confiscated and taken off them and they are often beaten up for having them.

‘The conditions are really, really grim and we have, we think about 200 unaccompanied children who are there currently who really don’t have any access to accommodation or legal support, save for the work like organisations like we are doing.

‘When the Calais camp was demolished there were close to 10,000 people living there and now we see fewer numbers, but actually the conditions, I hate to say it, are far worse. I did not believe that they could really get much worse then the Calais camp but they have done.

‘People living there now, particularly the unaccompanied children that we work with do not even have access to tents or shelters they are literally sleeping rough surrounded by people smugglers and traffickers who want to exploit them. Now, these are teenagers, you know we work with children between the ages of thirteen and seventeen, they are young people in need of help.

‘Many of them have family here in Britain and have a legal right to be here re-united with that family in Britain, but no way of accessing that. There is no way to claim asylum now in Calais, if you do want to stay in Calais and in France. And for the children that we work with they have no route unless we identify them, unless we find them and pick them up, they have no route to re-unite with family members.

‘What we want to see is Home Office officials out there in Calais working with the French to identify who does have the legal right to be in Britain, and who should stay in France and claim asylum. But it is just not happening, we have to find a political solution to this crisis.’

• A 10-year-old refugee, Farhad Nouri has been dubbed ‘the little Picasso’ for his extraordinary talent. He is to hold his first art exhibition – to raise money for a sick Serbian boy.

Having fled Afghanistan, Farhad Nouri has been living in a refugee camp in Serbia for the past eight months. He began drawing at six years old after watching his father create arabesque art in Afghanistan.

Farhad Nouri has been living in a refugee camp with his parents and two younger brothers in Belgrade’s Krnjaãa neighbourhood for the past eight months. The family was forced to flee conflict and poverty in their home country of Afghanistan two years ago, travelling through Greece and Turkey before arriving in Serbia.

They hope to eventually start a peaceful new life somewhere in Western Europe. Farhad Nouri said: ‘If you spent one week in this camp you would be crazy but I feel very good when I’m drawing. I feel better and I don’t think about how it was in Afghanistan. When I’m drawing I’m relaxed.’

He spends his days sketching the people who inspire him, including Novak Djokovic, Cristiano Ronaldo, Angela Merkel, Salvador Dali and Pablo Picasso – his hero. ‘When I started to paint at six years old I could not draw like I do now back then,’ he said. ‘Now my favourite thing I like to paint is faces and portraits. I feel very good when I draw these people. Especially Picasso because he is my favourite artist.’

For Farhad, the exhibition is more than just a means of sharing his photographs, drawings and paintings with the world. He wants to use it to change the way people think and that, he says, is why choosing the name of the show was so important to him.

He eventually decided to call it ‘We Need Kindness – The Dream of a Ten-Year-Old’.

Farhad also wants to use the art show to make a difference to the life of a seven-year-old Serbian boy, whose family are fundraising to help pay for lifesaving treatment at a specialist clinic in Paris. When he heard about his story he knew he had to do something to help.

Sian Pilkington, a field representative at Help Refugees said: ‘Farhad is an intelligent boy with extraordinary talent, we are very happy to celebrate his artwork. It’s a fantastic opportunity to reflect on a positive story rather than the negative stories of the refugee crisis that are in the media. We hope that Farhad is given all the opportunities that any 10-year-old deserves to achieve his dreams in the future.’

• Germany is to resume sending refugees back to Greece. Germany had halted such returns under a 2011 ruling by its Constitutional Court. But it can send refugees back under the EU’s Dublin Convention. That convention says an asylum claim should be processed in the country where a migrant first entered the EU. In 2015-2016 Germany took in more than 800,000 refugees, many of whom had fled war and abuses in Afghanistan, Iraq and Syria.