Englishman arrested and told to join French army

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A British tourist on a family holiday in France was arrested on Tuesday for allegedly dodging his national service.

Phillipe Majolet, 28, who moved to the UK when he was six, was stunned when a group of gendarmes burst on to the camp site brandishing an arrest warrant and bore him away for questioning.

He was eventually allowed to continue his holiday with his fiancee, Melanie Billison, and her nine-year-old son, Andrew, but warned that unless he can prove he was living in England between the ages of 18-21, he faces extradition and the army.

Mr Majolet, who does not speak French, was told he must produce his passport at the French Embassy in London, in order to prove his UK residency, when he returns home this weekend. Otherwise he could face 10 months in army uniform.

The couple, from Wootton-under-Edge, Gloucestershire, had driven to the campsite in Biarritz, south-west France, but were unaware that visitors' passport numbers are passed on to the police for routine checks.

All French males are eligible for national service, but under the Council of Europe Convention of 1963, there are exemptions if they can prove that they lived in Britain between the ages of 18-21.

Kathy Bird, a neighbour of the couple, said that Mr Majolet had been very upset by the incident.

"Little Andrew thought he was never going to see Phillipe again. It was awful for him. Phillipe is more English than French."

John May, director of human resources for the Penn House nursing home in Minsterworth, Gloucestershire, where Mr Majolet works, said: "We need him here and hope everything turns out okay.

"He is a very capable and well-qualified member of staff and they are hard to come by these days.

"It must have come as a bit of a shock to him, but hopefully everything will sort itself out."

But Laurent Lemarchand, spokesman for the French Embassy, said: "He must report to the consul-general at the French consulate.

"He is a French citizen who says he has been living in England and if he can prove he has been living in England for all that time it is likely he will not have to do national service.

"It is possible that letters may have been sent to him asking him to contact us about national service.

"But he must know he was born in France and that his father was born in France. It is not the kind of thing you forget."