UK government to set up visa centre for Ukrainians in northern France

The UK government on Tuesday said it was setting up a visa centre for Ukrainian refugees in northern France, after many reported being turned away at the border.

UK government to set up visa centre for Ukrainians in northern France
The British visa centre will be in Lille, 110km from Calais. Map: Google maps

Foreign Secretary Liz Truss told parliament a “pop-up” site would be located in Lille, some 110 kilometres from Calais where scores of Ukrainians have gone to try and cross the Channel and join family in the UK.

Disappointed Ukrainians arriving in the Channel port city this week in the hope of getting to the UK have instead been told to go to Paris or Brussels to apply.

That has put pressure on the government in London to establish a bespoke visa application centre in Calais to cater specifically for people fleeing the Russian invasion.

But Home Secretary Priti Patel sowed confusion on Monday by stating first that the centre in Calais was already operational, then moments later that it was not yet ready.

Reader question: Why don’t Ukrainian refugees stay in France rather than crossing to the UK?

She also said the centre would be “away from the port” to prevent a “surge”, given ongoing pressures of migrants seeking to cross the Channel.

The Pas-de-Calais local authority in northern France told AFP on Tuesday that the situation remained unchanged.

“At this stage” visa applications are still being handled at the UK embassy, it added.

The British Embassy in Paris confirmed to The Local that all visa applications for the UK require an in-person appointment at the visa centre, which is in Paris.

Patel’s department then confirmed that visa applications were still only being handled by the UK embassy in Paris.

“We are in the process of establishing a second Visa Application Centre in France which will be by referral from Border Force only to support Ukrainians,” it added.

The new centre will be set up “in the coming days”, said a spokesman for Prime Minister Boris Johnson.

More than two million Ukrainians have fled the conflict, according to the UN. As of Monday evening, the UK had granted 300 visa applications.

That has earned it unfavourable comparisons with EU countries including France, where Ukrainians can enter without a visa and stay for at least a year, with the possibility of renewals, under a special scheme set up last weekend.

The UK insists that security checks still need to be carried out, because of the risk of infiltration by Russian forces among civilian populations.

Patel’s French counterpart Gérald Darmanin has criticised London’s policy for showing a “lack of humanity”.

Prime Minister Boris Johnson, though, insisted his government was “absolutely determined to be as generous as we possibly can”.

Thousands of applications were being processed from eastern and central Europe, he told reporters on Monday.

Member comments

  1. Totally ashamed of the UK’s lies and doublespeak demonstrated by the PM (who I refuse to acknowledge by even using his name ) and by Priti Patel who can’t use English tenses apparently. Anyone in France who meets or knows any Ukrainians please assure them these charlatans do not represent the vast majority in the UK. They got a parliamentary majority through lies, they are governing through lies. Please tell them they might well be better off in another country with a more helpful government (compassion & humanity don’t exist in the government’s language here), but if they do come here please tell them we will do all we can to help. Thank you.

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France proposes getting rid of penalties for ‘minor’ speeding offences

The French government is considering changing speeding laws so that drivers will not lose points on their licence if they are caught going just a few kilometres over the speed limit.

France proposes getting rid of penalties for 'minor' speeding offences

France’s Interior Ministry is considering changing its current rules for minor speeding violations – proposing getting rid of the penalty for drivers who only violate the rule by going just a few kilometres over the speed limit.

The Ministry has not laid out a timeline for when this could come into effect, but they said they are currently in the preliminary stages of studying how the change could be carried out.

“The fine of course remains,” said the Interior Ministry to French daily Le Parisien.

That is to say you can still be fined for going five kilometres over the speed limit, but there might not be any more lost points for driving a couple kilometres over the posted limit. 

READ ALSO These are the offences that can cost you points on your driving licence

Of the 13 million speeding tickets issued each year in France, 58 percent are for speeding violations of less than 5 km per hour over the limit, with many coming from automated radar machines.

How does the current rule work?

The rule itself is already a bit flexible, depending on where the speeding violation occurs.

If the violation happens in an urban area or low-speed zone (under 50 km per hour limit), then it is considered a 4th class offence, which involves a fixed fine of €135. Drivers can also lose a point on their licences as a penalty for this offence. 

Whereas, on highways and high-speed roads, the consequences of speeding by 5 km per hour are less severe. The offence is only considered 3rd class, which means the fixed fine is €68. There is still the possibility of losing a point on your licence, however. 

How do people feel about this?

Pierre Chasseray, a representative from the organisation “40 Millions d’Automobilistes,” thinks the government should do away with all penalties for minor speeding offences, including fines. He told French daily Le Parisien that this is only a “first step.”

Meanwhile, others are concerned that the move to get rid of points-deductions could end up encouraging people to speed, as they’ll think there is no longer any consequence.

To avoid being accused of carelessness, France’s Interior Ministry is also promising to become “firmer” with regards to people who use other people’s licences in order to get out of losing points – say by sending their spouse’s or grandmother’s instead of their own after being caught speeding. The Interior Ministry plans to digitalise license and registration in an effort to combat this. 

Ultimately, if you are worried about running out of points on your licence, there are still ways to recover them.

You can recover your points after six months of driving without committing any other offences, and there are also awareness training courses that allow you to gain your points back. It should be noted, however, that these trainings typically cost between €150 and €250, and they do not allow you to regain more than four points.