Sangatte: final transfers before closure
The last major transfers of people from the Sangatte reception centre in northern France to the UK, in accordance with the burden-sharing agreement reached between the two governments, will take place early tomorrow morning, when the two final buses leave the centre. As of early this morning, a total of 1,077 men, women and children have been transferred out of the Sangatte centre, which is due to close down altogether by 30 December.
Of those transferred so far, 946 - including 821 Iraqis and 125 Afghans - have gone to the UK; and a further 131 have been transferred to alternative accommodation elsewhere in France. In addition, 11 Afghans who were housed in Sangatte have taken advantage of the special voluntary repatriation package offered by the French government and gone home to Afghanistan, along with six other Afghans from elsewhere in France.
In all, the UNHCR teams working in Sangatte have now interviewed 1,245 people since they began the systematic interviewing process in mid-November. The residual caseload - between 150 and 200 people of around 30 different nationalities - will remain in France, where they will be granted an initial one-year residence and work permit. These will be renewable. The Afghans and Iraqis who are being transferred to the UK can opt for a four-year residence and work permit.
A handful of eligible individuals, who cannot travel to the UK tomorrow because of their medical condition, will have special arrangements made for them at a later date. They include a two-week-old baby that is underweight and its mother, and two other people who are hospitalized.
The UNHCR teams are now winding down their work, and some staff have already left. UNHCR will maintain a presence until late next week and then pull out altogether, its work completed.