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Friday, 13 December, 2002, 15:45 GMT
Tearing down of Sangatte begins
Immigrant at the Sangatte refugee camp
Sangatte has acted as a magnet for asylum seekers
Work has begun to dismantle the controversial Sangatte refugee camp in northern France.

The now infamous Red Cross centre near Calais was attacked in the UK as a base for illegal immigration.

Under a deal between the British and French governments, the camp will be closed permanently and handed back to its owner, the channel tunnel operator Eurotunnel.

Asylum seeker protests in a park in Calais
New refugees have protested furiously
Workers have now started taking down the prefabricated accommodation blocks that are estimated to have housed 67,000 migrants since the camp was set up in 1999.

The last immigrants will leave for Britain over the weekend.

Under the deal, 1,200 mostly Iraqi Kurds will be issued with temporary work visas but not granted asylum.

The workers dismantling Sangatte were being assisted by some of the 200 immigrants still at the camp on Friday morning.

On Saturday morning, two coaches will take 80 more of the refugees across the Channel.

Complete closure

The rest will be dispersed to centres for asylum seekers around France, the Red Cross said.

The deadline for the complete closure of the camp is 30 December, under the Anglo-French deal.

It will bring to a close a chapter that saw the camp become a cause celebre in Britain's tabloids.

Asylum seeker protests in a park in Calais
Illegal immigrants have a harder path to the UK
Sangatte was attacked by British politicians as a haven for people-smugglers and a base for illegal entry into the UK.

Some immigrants openly admitted to sheltering in Sangatte while they made dozens of attempts to enter the UK.

Efforts to break through fencing and board freight trains or stowaway on the Eurostar became a major headache for the operators.

The closure of the camp has generated fury among new asylum seekers, many of whom face a choice between seeking asylum in France or deportation.

More than 150 refugees protested in a park on Tuesday, demanding the same deal earlier asylum seekers were able to secure.


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12 Dec 02 | England
29 Nov 02 | Politics
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