The refugee centre of Sangatte, near Calais, was set up by the French Red Cross in 1999 and opened its doors to 75,000 people who fled war and conflict between 1999 and 2002. Sangatte became famous with refugees through word of mouth and many reached it after long and perilous journeys from war-torn countries. What characterized the centre of Sangatte was its open-door policy, it was no detention centre. Rather, it was a place of shelter and sanctuary for those who had suffered enough, fleeing from countries at war and traveling possibly 3,000 miles to reach the north of France with the hope to eventually get to England.
On December the 18th 2002, after an agreement between Tony Blair and Sarkozy, the centre was shut down. On that very morning at around 5am, Lilithwork was in Sangatte filming the closure of the centre and trying to understand why such place had represented a problem for some European countries and a hope for those who came from far seeking asylum.
The documentary looks at the closure of the centre, the rally that came before it to keep the place open and the reasons of those who seek asylum. Francis Gest, representative of the rights of asylum seekers in Sangatte, explains what brought people there. The sociologist and director of the centre Mr Derr tells us about the life in the centre, while Murielle Thorens of the Red Cross gives an account of the human side of this centre. Central to the documentary are the interviews with those who have been living in Sangatte as refugees: they tell us about the situation in their own countries, the horrors they had to flee from, years of traveling on foot to reach Sangatte. Today the refugee centre of Sangatte does not exist any more but people keep coming here, they live on the streets, in the parks, along the French shore. For the British and French government the problem has now been solved.
- Presented at the Rome Medfilmfestival 2004. Festival with the support of the United Nations.
- Festival Migrazioni, Trento. 2006 March, 16th and 17th.
Colour - Stereo - Dvcam
Original version French, English, Arab