Turning A Refugee Camp Into A Golf Resort

Fields of green
Fields of green
Olivier Ducuing

CALAIS – Jacques Gounon is very happy. The CEO of the Eurotunnel Group has just announced the launch of a huge real-estate project in Sangatte, on France's northern coast.

If the name rings a bell to newspaper readers, it is because Sangatte is where up until 2002, there was a massive refugee center, housing asylum seekers trying to get into the UK via the Channel Tunnel. The Eurotunnel Group holds the concession to operate the Channel Tunnel until 2086.

Refugees near Sangatte in June 2002 - Source: Sangatte, 10 ans qu"ça se gâte : faut qu"ça change

The new 160-hectare resort will comprise of 40 hectares of residential accommodation and hotels, a spa, retail area and a 121-hectare international tournament standard golf course built by Kyle Phillips. It is strategically located right next to the Channel tunnel and very easy to access (five minutes away from the main highways) and geared toward British clients, who are known golf enthusiasts.

Gounon qualifies his project as a “costal eco-village” that will promote sustainable development. For instance, the resort will recycle heat from the Channel Tunnel and produce green energy using grass mowed on the golf course.

Source: Ecodunord

The project will cost 161 million euros – not including the golf course – 29 million of which will be invested by Eurotunnel. The group has announced that it was going to open tenders to local companies to boost the local economy. Gounon hopes that the first part of the project will be finished in 2015-2016, but says “the number of administrative obstacles to turn this into a quality project are absolutely extravagant.” Nearby, the Eurotunnel Group has already built the Cité Europe, one of the biggest shopping malls in Europe, which employs 2,500 people.

Everyone is not happy with the group’s voracious appetite in the region. Eurotunnel’s purchase of assets from liquidated operator SeaFrance created worries in the local economy where cross-Channel crossings are a vital element. With its purchase of SeaFrance ferries, which it now leases to MyFerryLink, the Eurotunnel Group has become a dominant player in an already crowded cross-Channel transport market. French competition authorities approved the deal, but that is not the case of the UK Competition Commission, whose preliminary report said that MyFerryLink created “a substantial lessening of competition” in the market.

The group also won in 2010 a seven-year license to operate the port of Dunkirk’s 200-kilometer railway system but last month, abandoned its bid for the ports of Calais and Boulogne.

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A Mother In Spain Denied Child Custody Because She Lives In Rural Area

A court in Spain usurps custody of the one-year-old boy living with his mother in the "deep" part of the Galicia region, forced to instead live with his father in the southern city of Marbella, which the judge says is "cosmopolitan" with good schools and medical care. Women's rights groups have taken up the mother's case.

A child in Galician countryside

Laure Gautherin

A Spanish court has ordered the withdrawal of a mother's custody of her one-year-old boy because she is living in the countryside in northwestern Spain, where the judge says the child won't have "opportunities for the proper development of his personality."

The case, reported Monday in La Voz de Galicia, has sparked outrage from a women's rights association but has also set off reactions from politicians of different stripes across the province of Galicia, defending the values of rural life.

Judge María Belén Ureña Carazo, of the family court of Marbella, a city on the southern coast of 141,000 people, has ordered the toddler to stay with father who lives in the city rather than with his mother because she was living in "deep Galicia" where the child would lack opportunities to "grow up in a happy environment."

Front page of La Voz de Galicia - October 25, 2021

Front page of La Voz de Galicia - Monday 25 October, 2021

La Voz de Galicia

Better in a "cosmopolitan" city?

The judge said Marbella, where the father lives, was a "cosmopolitan city" with "a good hospital" as well as "all kinds of schools" and thus provided a better environment for the child to thrive.

The mother has submitted a formal complaint to the General Council of the Judiciary that the family court magistrate had acted with "absolute contempt," her lawyer told La Voz de Galicia.

The mother quickly accumulated support from local politicians and civic organizations. The Clara Campoamor association described the judge's arguments as offensive, intolerable and typical of "an ignorant person who has not traveled much."

The Xunta de Galicia, the regional government, has addressed the case, saying that any place in Galicia meets the conditions to educate a minor. The Socialist party politician Pablo Arangüena tweeted that "it would not hurt part of the judiciary to spend a summer in Galicia."

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