Last groups to leave for Britain as Sangatte closure looms

Two final buses are set to leave the French reception centre for Britain under a burden-sharing agreement, joining 1,077 other residents who have so far been transferred elsewhere in France or the United Kingdom. UNHCR winds down its Sangatte operations ahead of the December 30 closure.

Sangatte reception centre is being emptied out as its inhabitants are transferred to alternative accommodation in France or Britain.   © UNHCR/H.J.Davies

CALAIS, France, December 13 (UNHCR) - As its December 30 deadline for closure draws near, the Sangatte reception centre near Calais, France, is fast clearing out its remaining residents, with the last major transfer of people to the United Kingdom taking place tomorrow.

Under a burden-sharing agreement between the French and British governments, 946 Sangatte residents - 821 Iraqis and 125 Afghans - have so far been moved to the UK, where they can opt for a four-year residence and work permit.

Two final buses are set to leave the reception centre for Britain on Saturday morning. Special arrangements will be made later for a handful of eligible residents who cannot make the journey for medical reasons. They include a two-week-old baby who is underweight, its mother, and two other people who have been hospitalised.

Close to 1,250 of Sangatte's residents have undergone UNHCR's systematic interviewing process since mid-November.  © UNHCR/H.J.Davis

Since the UN refugee agency started a systematic interviewing process in mid-November, it has interviewed 1,245 Sangatte residents. The remaining caseload of 150 to 200 people from around 30 different countries will remain in France, along with 131 others who have already been moved to alternative accommodation elsewhere in the country. They will be granted an initial one-year residence and work permit, which are renewable.

Another 11 Afghans from Sangatte have opted to go back to Afghanistan with a special voluntary repatriation package offered by the French government. Six other Afghans from elsewhere in France have also taken up the offer.

The UNHCR interviewing teams are now winding down their work at the reception centre, and will pull out late next week after completing their work there.