A university professor from Nice who was caught giving a lift to three Eritrean migrants has been cleared of aiding illegal immigration, as the court ruled he had acted “to help persons in distress”.
Pierre-Alain Mannoni, 45, was arrested when police found him with three Eritrean women in his car. However, in a landmark ruling, the court cleared him of charges after hearing that he had planned to let the women stay in his home overnight before driving them to a train station in the morning, The Telegraph has reported.
Similarly Cédric Herrou, 37, a farmer from Breil-sur-Roya, has been charged with helping dozens of illegal immigrants across the border from Italy. A court is set to rule next month.
The cases come amid reports that French villagers in the Roya valley region of France, situated north-east of the French Riviera close to the Italian border, have been taking migrants into their homes for “humanitarian reasons”.
More than 36,000 migrants have been arrested by police in the region over the last year, most of whom were sent back to Italy. The arrests have prompted some locals to form a local support group for the migrants, known as the “Roya Citizenship”.
As many as 150 villagers are believed to have taken migrants, mostly African and Middle Eastern teenagers, into their homes.
One woman, identified only by her first name, Sophie, told Le Parisien that she had taken two Eritreans into her home in Saorge. “If the police come, I’ll say they’re underage,” she said.
Many of the migrants are expected to try to make their way to Britain, where they say they have family waiting.
Just months after the French authorities razed the Jungle migrant camp at Calais, relocating thousands of camp residents to centres across France, migrants are once again congregating in the area.
A number of small camps have already sprung up in woods around the area as dozens of migrants each week drift back to the region. Lorry drivers passing through Calais have reported them trying to break into vehicles to get across the Channel.