Types of accommodation



Forum Réfugiés - Cosi

Decisions for admission in accommodation places for asylum seekers, as well as for exit from or modification of this place, are taken by OFII after it has consulted with the Director of the place of accommodation. The specific situation of the asylum seeker is to be taken into account.

Accommodation facilities for asylum seekers are:

(a)   Accommodation centres for asylum seekers (CADA) that include both collective reception centres and scattered housing in apartments (private housing);

(b)   All types of accommodation being funded by the Ministry of Interior, including emergency accommodation.

Asylum seekers accommodated in these facilities receive a certification of address (attestation de domiciliation).1 This certification is valid for one year and can be renewed if necessary. It allows the asylum seeker to open a bank account and to receive mail.

According to the national reception scheme principle, an asylum seeker who has introduced his or her claim in a specific Prefecture might not necessarily be accommodated in the same region. The asylum seeker has to present him or herself to the accommodation place proposed by OFII within 5 days. If not, the offer is considered to be refused and the asylum seeker will not be entitled to any other material reception conditions.

The management of these asylum reception centres is subcontracted to the semi-public company Adoma or to NGOs that have been selected through a public call for tenders, such as Forum réfugiés – Cosi, France terre d’asile, l’Ordre de Malte, Coallia, French Red Cross etc. These centres fall under the French social initiatives (“action sociale”) and are funded by the State. Their financial management is entrusted to the Prefect of the Département.

As of 30 June 2016, the national reception scheme (dispositif national d’accueil) (DNA) included:

  • 303 regular reception centres (both collective and private housing) for asylum seekers (CADA);2

  • 1 centre especially suited to unaccompanied children asylum seekers;3

  • 2 “transit” centres (in Villeurbanne and in Créteil);

  • 91 centrally managed emergency centres (AT-SA);

  • 171 decentralised emergency shelters (HUDA).

As of the end of the first half of 2016, the national reception scheme had the following capacity and occupancy across the different regions:












Alsace-Lorraine Champagne-Ardenne







Aquitaine Limousin Poitou-Charentes







Auvergne Rhône-Alpes







Bourgogne Franche-Comté




























Midi-Pyrénées Languedoc-Roussillon




























Provence-Alpes-Côte d’Azur














Source: National Assembly, Information report on the evaluation of of reception polciy for asylum seekers, 4 October 2016, available at: http://www.assemblee-nationale.fr/14/rap-info/i4077.asp#P646_119792.

In addition, there are around 241 Reception and Orientation Centres (CAO) which are ad hoc accommodation centres opened to empty out the jungle of “Calais” and to accommodate the asylums seekers living in the dismantled camps in Paris.4 At the end of December 2016, 7,153 persons were reportedly residing in 237 of the CAO, of whom 64% had registered asylum applications and 21% wished to apply for asylum.5


Reception centres for asylum seekers (CADA)

Asylum seekers having registered a claim are eligible to stay in reception centres. Asylum seekers under a Dublin procedure are excluded for now from accessing these centres. Reception centres can be either collective or individualised housing, within the same building or scattered in several locations. A place in the centres for asylum seekers is offered by OFII once the application has been made. The average length of stay in CADA reception centres in 2015 was 528 days – that is to say almost one year and six months.6 If asylum seekers do not accept the offered accommodation, they will be excluded as a consequence from the benefit of the asylum seeker’s allowance (ADA). If there is no place in a reception centre, the asylum seeker is placed on a waiting list, in the meantime, they will be directed to other provisional accommodation solutions,7 when these are available. Moreover, in practice, it has been observed that single women or men have not access easily to accommodation centres. Families or single parents with children are prioritised in being accommodated. The fact that many accommodation centres have been organised to receive families or couples makes difficult, for single men or women, to be accommodated. As of the end of June 2016, 27,683 persons were residing in CADA, 87% of the total reception capacity.

However, if the asylum seeker has not succeeded in getting access to a reception centre before lodging his or her appeal, the chances of benefitting from one at the appeal stage are very slim.8 In case of a shortage of places, asylum seekers may have no other solutions than relying on night shelters or living on the street. The implementation of the national reception scheme intends to avoid as much as possible cases where asylum seekers are homeless or have to resort to emergency accommodation on the long run. In 2017, the objective is to reach 60,854 accommodation places, among which 40,352 would be in CADA.9

It is nevertheless very complicated for asylum seekers to get accommodated. The average delay to have access to an accommodation centre depends on the area where asylum seekers submit their claim. In Paris, some asylum seekers have been granted asylum without never getting access to any centre, hotel or apartment. In Lyon, the average delay between the registration of the claim and access to housing is 62 days. It is similar in Clermont-Ferrand where the asylum seeker can wait up to 51 days. In Marseille, this delay goes up to 101 days, whereas it is around 70 days in Nice.10

In France, there are also two “transit centres” which house asylum seekers temporarily and refer them to the national reception scheme (220 places in Villeurbanne and 80 in Créteil). Under special circumstances, some asylum seekers under Dublin or accelerated procedures can also be accommodated there for a while.


Insufficient capacity in regular reception centres

As of 30 June 2016, there were 31,869 places in regular reception centres (CADA). The number of places in reception centres is therefore clearly not sufficient to provide access to housing to all the asylum seekers who should benefit from it in accordance with the recast Reception Conditions Directive. No phenomenon of overcrowding in each of the centres is observed but the overall reception capacities are stretched: in the first half of 2016, the number of people admitted in CADA was higher than the number of people getting out of the reception centres (11,164 against 8,861).11

This is partly explained by the fact that rejected asylum seekers and beneficiaries of international protection can, upon request, stay in asylum seekers’ reception centres.  Refugees and beneficiaries of subsidiary protection can stay until an offer of accommodation is available, within a strict timeframe of three months from the final decision (renewable once in special cases). Upon request, those whose claims have been rejected are also able to stay in a centre for up to one month from the notification of the negative decision. Afterwards, they might access emergency accommodation through emergency aid (if a place is available). However, due to a stretched housing market in general some tend to overstay in CADA. At the end of June 2016, out of a total 27,683 accommodated people in CADA, 79.8% were asylum seekers, 10.6% were beneficiaries of international protection and 10.2% were rejected asylum seekers.12

An Appendix to the 2017 Finance Law sets a target of 60% of asylum seekers to be housed in regular reception centres by 2017.13 Therefore, 1,800 additional places shall be opened respectively in 2016 and 2017 according to the Finance Law.

8,703 additional places have already been made available for 2017.14 The objective of the Ministry of Interior is that “by 2017, accommodation in regular reception centres shall [...] be the norm and the accommodation in emergency centres the exception.”15 However, as of 30 June 2016, 17,862 persons were accommodated in emergency reception facilities, awaiting their entry into a regular reception centre.16


Emergency reception scheme (AT-SA, HUDA)

Given the lack of places in regular reception centres for asylum seekers, the State authorities have developed emergency schemes. Two systems exist:

(1)   An emergency reception scheme managed at national level: temporary reception – asylum office (accueil temporaire – service de l’asile) (AT-SA). 6,033 at the end of June 2016.

(2)   A decentralised emergency reception scheme: emergency accommodation for asylum seekers (hébergement d’urgence dédié aux demandeurs d’asile) (HUDA). 11,829 emergency accommodation places existed within this scheme at the end of June 2016. Capacities provided by this scheme evolve quickly depending on the number of asylum claims and capacities of regular reception centres.

Nuclear families can usually stay together during the asylum application process, but in practice it happens that families who have to rely on emergency shelters cannot stay together as rooms for men and women are sometimes separated in these shelters.


Asylum seekers under Dublin procedure      

Asylum seekers who fall under the Dublin procedure in France can in theory benefit from emergency accommodation up until the notification of the decision of transfer, while Dublin returnees are treated as regular asylum seekers and therefore benefit from the same reception conditions granted to asylum seekers under the regular or the accelerated procedure. In practice, however, many persons subject to Dublin procedures live on the streets or in squats.


Reception and orientation centres (CAO)

As mentioned above, CAO have been created to accommodate asylum seekers evacuated from Calais. They are dispersed across all of the French territory. The mission of these centres consists in sheltering migrants, supporting them in submitting an asylum claim and providing them with material, administrative and social support.17 Asylum seekers are not supposed to be provided with legal assistance. Indeed, since they are identified as willing to submit an asylum claim, they have to be directed towards the regular procedure and the corresponding accommodation centres.

In practice, the missions ensured by the social workers are wider and orientation is not always effective. In March 2016, Fédération des Acteurs de la Solidarité (FNARS) has published a report highlighting the lack of information provided to the asylum seekers channelled to these centres in October 2015. This report also reveals that, among 27 structures running CAO and taking part in this survey, the services provided are good overall but there is no real orientation of asylum seekers towards relevant accommodation centres.18 This is confirmed by the fact that, at the end of December 2016, as many as 4,494 persons, 63% of the total population living in CAO, had already registered an asylum application.19

In the vast majority of CAO, asylum seekers must be provided with legal assistance since there is a shortage of places in the regular accommodation facilities. They register their asylum claim during their stay in these centres. OFPRA has organised field missions to conduct interviews, as for instance in December 2016 in Clermont-Ferrand. Some asylum seekers have also been heard already by the CNDA. 


Asylum seekers left without accommodation

A number of regions have experienced an important increase in the number of asylum seekers received, thus leading to severe difficulties in terms of housing.


Informal camps in Paris

In Paris, several informal camps have been set up, for instance in the 19tharrondissement, near the metro stations Jaurès and Stalingrad. Among foreign nationals living in these camps there were irregular migrants but also asylum seekers, most of them joining the camps after the dismantlement of Calais camps. According to Le Monde, there were about 3,000 living in these camps around the end of 2016.20

In 2015, in the 18th and 13tharrondissements, after several field visits aiming to inform people on the asylum procedure, OFPRA, together with the municipality of Paris, the Ministry of Interior, France Terre d’Asile and Emmaü, have conducted seven protection missions in order to accommodate more 1, 400 persons in emergency centres and provide them with legal, material and medical support. These missions were conducted between 2 June 2015 and 17 September 2015. The two camp sites in the 18th and 13tharrondissement have completely disappeared.

The camps in 19tharrondissement emerged during the last quarter of 2016. A lot of people have joined these camps from Calais. A campaign of dismantlement has been set up by the Ministry of Interior in the last few months. Almost 3,800 people have been evacuated and accommodated in 80 temporary shelters.21 Asylum seekers living on the street have been put under a lot of pressure during this period.22 According to several stakeholders, these operations may have been conducted with police violence. Médecins Sans Frontières (MSF) has denounced several police abuses in January 2017. The NGO reported the police was harassing migrants waiting to get access to the humanitarian centre based in La Chapelle, North of Paris.23

The municipality in Paris built this centre to accommodate asylum seekers living in those camps, in the 18tharrondissement. This centre can accommodate 400 asylum seekers but aims also to orientate and support all the migrants. It is run by Emmaüs and opened on 10 November 2016. Migrants are supposed to be provided with health care, social and administrative support. This accommodation facility is dedicated to single men only. The asylum seekers identified in the centre will supposedly be channelled to the asylum procedure.24 Another centre accommodating specifically women and families is also run by Emmaüs at Ivry-sur-Seine, South of Paris. This centre opened on 19 of January 2017.25 Despite several initiatives taken by the public authorities and local stakeholders, many migrants and asylum seekers are still on the street.26


The situation in Calais

In Calais, after the steps taken by the French government in 2015 and 2016,27 the slums have been destroyed and people have been directed to Reception and Orientation Centres (CAO). The dismantlement of the Calais camps has been operated in several stages. A first operation took place by the end of 2015, during which 700 people were sheltered.28 In the steps of this initiative, the French government has defined the modalities of accommodation required for the CAO.29 The southern part of the camp was destroyed in February 2016, in a context heavy of tensions.30 In October 2016 the government finalised the operation of evacuation and channelled the people living in the slums to CAOs.31 5,243 migrants have been directed to 197 CAO (see section on CAO).

These situations are only examples but can be found on a small scale in other cities or regions in France. They illustrate the lack of accommodation places, be it in regular reception centres or emergency centres.

  • 1. Article R.744-1 to R.744-4 Ceseda.
  • 2. National Assembly, Information report on the evaluation of of reception polciy for asylum seekers, 4 October 2016, available at: http://bit.ly/2kjjSgb.
  • 3. See section on Special Reception Needs for details on the reception modalities of unaccompanied children.
  • 4. OFII, Point CAO, 29 December 2016, available in French at: http://bit.ly/2jQfurM.
  • 5. Ibid.
  • 6. OFII, OFII missions in 2015, 1 November 2016, available at: http://bit.ly/2joKTig.
  • 7. Ministry of Interior, Reception and Accommodation of Asylum Seekers.
  • 8. European Migration Network, The organisation of reception structures for asylum seekers in France, September 2013.
  • 9. Circular NOR INTV1633435J of 19 December 2016 relating to the creation of new places in centres of accommodation for asylum seekers, available in French at: http://bit.ly/2jfWdgF.
  • 10. Forum réfugies – Cosi data based on the numbers of asylum seekers effectively getting access to an accommodation centre in these areas, 2016.
  • 11. National Assembly, Information report on the evaluation of of reception polciy for asylum seekers, 4 October 2016.
  • 12. National Assembly, Information report on the evaluation of of reception polciy for asylum seekers, 4 October 2016.
  • 13. Draft Finance Law 2017, Appendix “Immigration, Asylum, Integration”, available in French at: http://bit.ly/2iVsoWx.
  • 14. Circular NOR INTV1633435J of 19 December 2016 relating to the creation of new places in centres of accommodation for asylum seekers.
  • 15. National Assembly, Minister of Interior Bernard Cazeneuve’s Introductory Speech of the draft law on asylum’s public hearing, 9 December 2014.
  • 16. National Assembly, Information report on the evaluation of of reception polciy for asylum seekers, 4 October 2016.
  • 17. Circular NORINTK15201955, 20 November 2015, available in French at: http://bit.ly/2iPDGHv.
  • 18. FNARS, Enquête : état des lieux des centres d’accueil et d’orientation au 22 janvier 2016 (Survey : inventory of accommodation and orientation centres as of 22 January 2016), March 2016, available in French at: http://bit.ly/2jMuiZk.
  • 19. OFII, Point CAO, 29 December 2016.
  • 20. Le Monde, ‘A Paris, 3000 migrants dans la rue, victimes collatérales du démantèlement de Calais’, 2 November 2016, available in French at: http://bit.ly/2f38C5S.
  • 21. FranceInfo, ‘Paris : le démantèlement du camp de Stalingrad est terminé. Plus de 3 800 migrants évacués’, 4 November 2016, available in French at: http://bit.ly/2fni8jt.
  • 22. Libération, ‘Au camp de migrants à Paris : entre espoirs et opérations policières’, 31 October 2016, available in French at: http://bit.ly/2jEaTFT.
  • 23. MSF, ‘Migrants dans la rue à Paris : les harcèlements et les violences policières doivent cesser’, 7 January 2017, available in French at: http://bit.ly/2i46lLa.
  • 24. For more information on the centre, see the Emmaüs website at: http://bit.ly/2jr8GOH.
  • 25. Le Parisien, ‘Ivry : le centre d’accueil pour migrants ouvrira le 19 janvier’, 4 January 2017, available in French at: http://bit.ly/2ikpfiI.
  • 26. France 24, ‘Migrants : des mini-campements se reforment près du centre humanitaire de Paris”, 10 January 2017, available in French at http://f24.my/2j5sTvP.
  • 27. See also AIDA Country Report France: Fourth Update, December 2015.
  • 28. Circular NORINTK15201955, 20 November 2015, available in French at: http://bit.ly/2iPDGHv.
  • 29. Ibid.
  • 30. Le Monde, ‘Violence en marge du démantèlement partiel de la jungle de Calais’, 29 February 2016, available in French at: http://bit.ly/1LpYxho.
  • 31. Le Monde, ‘Jungle de Calais : le démantèlement débutera lundi à l’aube’, 21 October 2016, available in French at: http://bit.ly/2e7KqzU.

About AIDA

The Asylum Information Database (AIDA) is a database managed by the European Council on Refugees and Exiles (ECRE), containing information on asylum procedures, reception conditions, detenti