An asylum application in France may be lodged either on the territory (obtaining the application form from the prefecture) or at the border (in case the asylum seeker does not possess valid travel documents to enter the territory, at any time while in the waiting zone) or from an administrative detention centre (in case the person is already being detained for the purpose of removal).
The registration of asylum claims in France has been deeply reorganised with the reform of the law on asylum, fully applicable as of 1 November 2015. A “single desk” (guichet unique) has been introduced in order to register both the asylum claim and the need for material reception conditions.
In order to lodge an asylum application in France, asylum seekers must present themselves to the local organisation responsible for pre-reception. Orientation platforms are mainly but not exclusively expected to perform this task. This new step in the registration procedure aims to avoid long lines in front of Prefectures, as foreign nationals presenting themselves to the single desk (“guichet unique”) have an appointment. The appointment has to take place within 3 days after asylum seekers have expressed their intention to lodge an asylum claim.1 This deadline can be expanded up to 10 days when a large number of foreign nationals wishing to introduce an asylum claim arrive at the same time.2
While the 2015 reform aimed at reducing delays relating to registration, the introduction of this additional step has led to more complexity and delays in accessing the procedure in practice. At the time of writing, the 3-day deadline was not respected in several Prefectures: in Lyon the average delay is approximately 45 days, in Paris the delay exceeds 1 month and in Seine Saint Denis, asylum seekers may be waiting for almost 2 months before getting registered.3 Delays in the registration of applications in Paris have led to judicial action before the Administrative Tribunal of Paris, with over a hundred cases condemning the Prefecture to register asylum claims.4 In Bretagne, Western and Eastern France, the average delay is approximately 3 weeks. In other places, like in Perpignan for example, the delay is very short; asylum seekers can be registered in only two days.
Beyond the mainland, the Prefecture of Guyane issued a decision to temporarily suspend the registration of asylum applications from 19 August 2016 until 1 December 2016 at the latest, due to a sharp increase in the number of asylum claims mainly from Haitian nationals.5 The Conseil d’Etat ruled on 7 November 2016 that the suspension was not unlawful given the increase in pressure on the Prefecture, and insofar as particularly vulnerable groups still had the possibility to access the procedure.6 The decision has been criticised by Cimade, as the policy of allowing registration of vulnerable cases was never officially communicated, and appeared to cover pregnant women, severely ill persons and unaccompanied minors, thereby a more limited group than the legally defined categories of vulnerable applicants.7
It is no longer mandatory to provide an address (“domiciliation”) to register asylum seekers’ claims. However, as long as administrative notifications are still sent by mail, asylum seekers have to provide an address for the procedure to be smoothly conducted. An address certificate (déclaration de domiciliation) is also necessary to benefit from certain social benefits, in particular the Universal Medical Protection (PUMA). A specific form to declare asylum seekers’ address is available since 20 October 2015.
In order for their claim to be registered by the Prefecture, asylum seekers have to provide the following:8
Information relating to civil status;
Travel documents, entry visa or any documentation giving information on the conditions of entry on the French territory and travel routes from the country of origin;
4 ID photos; and
In case the asylum seeker is housed on his or her own means, his or her address.
It is only once the asylum claim certification (attestation de demande d’asile) has been granted that a form to formally lodge their asylum application is handed over. Specific documentation is also handed to the asylum seekers in order to provide him or her information on:
The asylum procedure;
His or her rights and obligations throughout the procedure;
The consequences that violations of these obligations might have;
His or her rights and obligations in relation to reception conditions; and
Organisations supporting asylum seekers.
The asylum claim certification is delivered for a specific period of time, renewable until the end of the procedure. Depending on the procedure, the period of validity varies:9
Under regular procedure, the asylum claim certification is valid for an initial period of time of 1 month, renewable for 9 months and 6 months afterwards (as many times as necessary);
Under accelerated procedure, the asylum claim certification is valid for an initial period of time of 1 month, renewable for 6 months and 3 months (as many times as necessary);
Under Dublin procedure, the asylum claim certification is valid for an initial period of time of 1 month, renewable for 4 months (as many times as necessary).
Then, the asylum seeker has 21 calendar days to fill in the application form in French and send it by registered mail to OFPRA.10 In order for the claim to be processed by OFPRA, the filled and signed application form as to be accompanied by a copy of the asylum claim certification, 2 ID photos and, if applicable, a travel document and the copy of the residence permit. Upon reception of the claim, OFPRA shall inform the asylum seeker as well as the competent Prefect and the OFII that the claim is complete and ready to be processed. In case the claim is incomplete the asylum seeker has to be asked to provide the necessary missing elements or information within 8 additional days.11
The Prefecture may refuse to grant an asylum claim certification for 2 reasons:12
(a) The foreign national introduced a subsequent application after the final rejection of his or her first subsequent application; or
(b) The foreign national is subject to a final decision of extradition towards another country than his country of origin, or if he is subject to a European arrest warrant or an arrest warrant issued by the International Criminal Court.
If foreign nationals are refused an asylum claim certification, they are refused the right to stay on the French territory and to introduce an asylum claim. They might be placed in an administrative detention centre in view of their removal.
In addition, the renewal of an asylum claim certification can be refused, or the asylum claim certification can be refused or removed when:13
(a) OFPRA has taken an inadmissibility decision because the asylum seeker has already been granted asylum in another EU Member State or third country, where the protection provided is effective;
(b) The asylum seeker has withdrawn his or her asylum claim;
(c) OFPRA has closed the asylum claim. OFPRA is entitled to close an asylum claim if it has not been introduced within 21 days; or if the asylum seeker did not present him or herself to the interview ; or if the asylum seeker has consciously refused to provide fundamental information; or if the asylum seeker has not provided any address and cannot be contacted;14
(d) A first subsequent application has been introduced by the asylum seeker only to prevent a notified or imminent order of removal;
(e) The foreign national introduced a subsequent application after the final rejection of his or her first subsequent application; or
(f) The foreign national is subject to a final decision of extradition towards another country than his country of origin, or if he is subject to a European arrest warrant or an arrest warrant issued by the International Criminal Court. In case of a refusal, or refusal of a renewal, or removal of the asylum claim certification, the asylum seeker is not allowed to remain on the French territory and this decision can be accompanied by an order to leave the French territory (OQTF).
The decision can be challenged before the Administrative Court and the appeal has suspensive effect. In parallel to the registration of the claim at the Prefecture, the file of the asylum seeker is transferred to the French Office for Immigration and Integration (OFII) that is responsible for the management of the national reception scheme. The 2015 reform of the law on asylum has introduced a system of single desk (guichet unique), implemented since January 2016 in 34 Prefectures (see chapter on Reception Conditions).
The first instance determination authority in France is OFPRA. When OFPRA receives a complete application within the required deadlines, it registers it and sends a confirmation letter to the applicant. If not, OFPRA refuses to register the application. Such a refusal can be challenged before the Administrative Court of Melun. This remedy can be useful if a "valid" excuse can be argued (e.g. health problems during the period).
French law does not lay down strict time limits for asylum seekers to lodge an application for asylum after entering the country. However, the revised law specifies that one reason why OFPRA shall process an asylum claim in accelerated procedure is that “without legitimate reason, the seeker who irregularly entered the French territory or remained there irregularly did not introduced his or her asylum claim in a period of 120 days as from he or she has entered the French territory.”15
Finally, the requirement to write the asylum application in French can be a serious constraint. For asylum seekers who do not benefit from any support through the procedures and who may face daily survival concerns, the imposed period of 21 days is very short. The objective of the reform was that, in theory, all asylum seekers would be housed and accompanied in the context of the national reception scheme, in order to avoid these difficulties and inequalities between asylum seekers. However, this is the not the case in practice 18 months following the entry into force of the reform.
Applications lodged in detention
It should also be noted that in administrative detention centres, it is indicated to the persons held that their asylum application will not be admissible if it is lodged more than 5 calendar days after the notification of their rights read upon arrival, except if the foreign national calls upon new facts occurred after the 5-day deadline has expired.16 This condition does not apply to asylum seekers from safe countries of origin.17 Asylum seekers in detention can benefit from legal and linguistic assistance.18 These provisions introduced in the revised law on asylum have formalised the decision of 30 July 2014 of the Council of State in which it considered that, in certain cases, the asylum seeker held in administrative detention could lodge an asylum application after the 5-day deadline if (a) he or she could not lodge his or her asylum application because he or she could not benefit from an effective legal and linguistic assistance; or (b) in order to substantiate his or her case, he or she alleges facts which happened after this deadline.19
Applications at the border and refusal of entry
A specific border procedure to request an admission into the country on asylum grounds is provided by French legislation for persons arriving illegally or with false identity or travel documents on French territory through airports or harbours (see section on Border Procedure).20 When the foreign national presents him or herself at the border expressing his or her intention to claim asylum, he or she is informed without delay about the asylum procedure, his or her rights and obligations throughout the procedure as well as the consequences in case he or she does not comply with his or her obligations or refuses to cooperate with competent authorities.21 The request must be taken into account and the Border Police has to take a statement of the request for an admission on asylum grounds. The person is held in a waiting zone for an initial duration of 4 days.22
The reason why people expressing their intention to apply for asylum at the border are kept in a waiting zone for 4 days is to determine whether they are entitled to enter the country or if they shall be sent back to their country of origin or transit. In addition to the situation where the foreign national represents a “severe threat to public safety”, the revised law on asylum formulates 3 grounds for refusal of entry into the country of foreign nationals having expressed their intention to apply for asylum:
(a) The asylum claim is the responsibility of another Member State;
(b) The asylum claim is inadmissible;
(c) The asylum claim is manifestly unfounded.
Apart from the first situation, the decision to refuse the entry into the country cannot be taken without consultation of OPFRA, whose opinion, if favourable to the entry into the country, is binding, except in the situation where the foreign national constitutes a threat to national security.
A suspensive appeal can be lodged to contest the decision of the ministry to apply the Dublin Regulation to a foreign national in a waiting zone at the French border.
There is no strict deadline to apply for asylum when applicants are waiting for their admission at the border, the person may apply for asylum at any time during the time he or she is held in the waiting zone, meaning during 4 days.
- 1. Article L.741-1 Ceseda.
- 2. Ibid.
- 3. See also La Cimade, ‘Conditions d’accès au droit d’asile en Ile-de-France’, 12 January 2017, available in French at: http://bit.ly/2iR3eZa.
- 4. See e.g. Administrative Tribunal of Paris, Decision No 1602545/9, 22 February 2016 and other rulings at: http://bit.ly/1NwI7oj.
- 5. See AIDA, ‘France: Council of State upholds suspension of registration of applications in Guiana’, 17 November 2016, available at: http://bit.ly/2jlSk9P.
- 6. Council of State, Order No 404484, 7 November 2016, available in French at: http://bit.ly/2jcE3Pe.
- 7. La Cimade, ‘Guyane : l’asile mis entre parentheses avec l’assentiment du Conseil d’Etat’, 16 November 2016, available in French at: http://bit.ly/2jN4vzq.
- 8. Article R.741-3 Ceseda.
- 9. Ministerial ruling on application of Article L.741-1 Ceseda, published on 9 October 2015.
- 10. Article R.723-1 Ceseda.
- 11. Ibid.
- 12. Article L.741-1 Ceseda.
- 13. Article L.743-2 Ceseda.
- 14. Article L.723-13 Ceseda.
- 15. Article L.723-2(III)(3) Ceseda.
- 16. Article L.551-3 Ceseda, as amended by the Law of 7 March 2016.
- 17. Ibid.
- 18. Ibid.
- 19. Council of State, Decision n° 375430, 30 July 2014, available in French at: http://bit.ly/1LK6tsf.
- 20. Article L.221-1 et seq. Ceseda.
- 21. Article R.213-2 Ceseda.
- 22. Article L.221-3 Ceseda.