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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‘A good thing’ for footballers to express values, says France’s PM

France's Prime Minister Elisabeth Borne - speaking in Berlin - said that footballers should be allowed to express their values, amid controversy over FIFA's stance against the 'OneLove' armband on the pitch.

'A good thing' for footballers to express values, says France's PM

“There are rules for what happens on the field but I think it’s a good thing for players to be able to express themselves on the values that we obviously completely share, while respecting the rules of the tournament,” said Borne at a press conference in Berlin on Friday.

Germany’s players made headlines before Wednesday’s shock loss to Japan when the team lined up for their pre-match photo with their hands covering their mouths after FIFA’s threat to sanction players wearing the rainbow-themed armband.

Seven European nations, including Germany, had previously planned for their captains to wear the armband, but backed down over FIFA’s warning.

Following Germany’s action, Wales and the Netherlands have since come out to say they would not mirror the protest.

Borne’s visit to Germany was her first since she was named to her post in May.

Following talks with German Chancellor Olaf Scholz, the two leaders signed an agreement for “mutual support” on “guaranteeing their energy supplies”.

Concrete measures outlined in the deal include France sending Germany gas supplies as Berlin seeks to make up for gaping holes in deliveries from Russia.

Germany meanwhile would help France “secure its electricity supplies over winter”, according to the document.

France had since 1981 been a net exporter of electricity to its neighbours because of its nuclear plants. But maintenance issues dogging the plants have left France at risk of power cuts in case of an extremely cold winter.

The two leaders also affirmed their countries’ commitment to backing Ukraine “to the end of” its conflict with invaders Russia.