Persons refused entry into the territory after arriving at the border have the possibility to ask for a “full day” (jour franc) that allows them to be protected from removal for 24 hours. In the case of adults, this right must be requested, whereas under the law unaccompanied children cannot be removed before the expiry of the jour franc unless they specifically waive it.The jour franc does not apply to refusals of entry issued at land borders or in Mayotte since September 2018, in accordance with the modifications adopted by the 2018 reform.
In 2018, the French police recorded 71,274 refusals of entry at the border, compared to 85,408 in 2017. No data was made available at national level since 2018. As regards external borders, Eurostat statistics seems inconsistent as it indicates that a total of 70,445 third country nationals were refused entry at the external borders in 2018 (86,320 in 2017), but only 9,880 in 2019 and 4,240 in 2020.2021 figures were not available at the time of writing of this report.
In December 2019, several NGOs have requested a parliamentary commission with the aim to investigate violations of the law at the border. The issues reported by these NGOs include violent practices, pushbacks, the absence of medical and social care as well as a lack of support to vulnerable applicants including unaccompanied minors. The establishment of a parliamentary commission had already been requested by several French Deputies in November 2019.A parliamentary commission on migration – not limited to border issues – has been launched in April 2021 and has published a report in November 2021.This report recalls that “the violations of rights at our borders have been abundantly documented and denounced” and “it’s time to put an end to it”.
Since 2015, the French police has intensified border controls which aim to prevent asylum seekers from accessing France. As a result, the closure of the border has been maintained and several police operations have been reinforced in recent years. Despite the fact that the reintroduction of border control at the internal borders must be applied as a last resort measure, in exceptional situations, and must respect the principle of proportionality, France has regularly re-introduced border controls at its internal borders in recent years. The current temporary border control is valid since 1 November 2021 and up until 30 April 2022. Moreover, it should be noted that the Council of State validated in October 2019 a temporary border control decision that had been taken in 2018.The Council of State has considered that this measure, which is based on “current events and the high level of the terrorist threat prevailing in France”, leads to a limitation of the freedom of movement that is proportionate to the aim pursued. In a decision issued in November 2020, the Council of State indicated that European law does not allow to issue a refusal of entry to a foreigner arrested while crossing an internal border or close to it, nor does it automatically deprive an asylum seeker from reception conditions i.e. accommodation. The rules from Return directive must apply.However, in a decision issued in April 2021, the Council of makes a distinction between people arrested after crossing the border, who must be subject to the Return Directive (case law of November 2020), and those who are arrested before crossing the border for whom the refusal of entry is compatible with European law. It should be further noted that France signed around 40 cooperation agreement with other countries, including readmission agreements with European countries such as Kosovo, Serbia, Switzerland, Italy, Lithuania, Estonia, Hungary, Latvia. These agreements should not impact the right to ask for asylum but it is often interpreted as taking precedence over all other considerations, especially at the Italian land border.
In addition, the attempts to cross the Channel to join the United Kingdom have reached a record number of 28,395 persons in 2021, which is three times more than the number reported in 2020.Similarly, the number of migrants rescued at sea reached 1,002 persons, which is three time higher compared to 2020 (341). As mentioned before, 2021 was also the most murderous year, with 27 persons who died at sea, trying to join the United Kingdom.
Concerning the reinforcement of the security policy, it should be noted that the British government has tabled a controversial bill in 2021, which aims to criminalise sea crossings (see AIDA report on the United Kingdom). This bill stated that asylum seekers who arrived illegally on the British territory will be deported to the “safe country” where they came from. This bill also allows the unlawful return of small boats in the French territorial sea by British authorities, in violation of international law.The bill is currently in discussion in front of the British parliament.
Access at the Italian land border
Reports of people being refused entry without their protection needs being taken into account at the Italian border persisted in2021.In July 2020, the High administrative court (Council of State) underlined to the French State its legal obligations in matters of asylum at the border.The Council of State concluded that by refusing the entry to the territory the authorities had manifestly infringed the right to asylum.In a joint statement, six NGOs welcomed the ruling, condemning the fact that these illegal practices are systematically being carried out by the police. The NGOs also urged the Ministry of the Interior to issue public instructions to the border police so that people wishing to seek international protection in France can do so at the French-Italian border as well.
A network of researchers focusing on the Italian land border has also been established in 2018 to raise awareness on the issue and to establish a dialogue with civil society.Illegal police operations at the border have been extended from the Menton and Nice areas to the Hautes-Alpes since 2016. Such practices of mass arrest have had an effect on shifting migratory routes, leading migrants to take increasingly dangerous routes through the mountains. By way of illustration, the Italian organisation Doctors for Human Rights (MEDU) denounced at the beginning of 2021 the critical situation of migrants who attempt to reach France from Italy through the Alpine border, highlighting inter alia that snow and freezing winter temperatures make the journey through the mountains particularly dangerous.
Figures on the number of apprehended persons and refusals of entry at the Italian border are not fully available for 2021 at the time of writing of this report. According to the Border police, 26,000 refusals of entry were notified in Alpes-Maritimes (Menton) in the first ten months of the year, compared to 16,000 in 2019 and 17,000 in 2020.In 2018, the Prefect of Alpes-Maritimes reported that 29,000 migrants were apprehended at the Italian border, down from more than 50,000 migrants arrested at the border in 2017, of whom a striking 98% had been pushed back to Italy.The authorities in the district of Hautes-Alpes (Modane) stated that 1,912 entry bans have been notified in 2021.
Racial profiling by the Border Police and other police forces deployed in the region of Hautes-Alpes have also been reported, whereby passengers who appear to be of African origin are being controlled in board trains arriving from Italy.Moreover, persons who explicitly express the intention to seek asylum have been refused entry by the French authorities on the basis that Italy is responsible for their claim, without being placed under the formal procedure foreseen by the Dublin Regulation.
A report published in July 2021 describes the reception conditions on the Italian side, in Ventimiglia, and documents “the impact of Covid-19 on people on the move at the French-Italian border”.The acute impact of the pandemic has been felt across key areas by people on the move, including access to adequate shelter, medical care, protection, and the treatment and rights at borders. According to this report, asylum seekers have reported facing violence by the police on both sides of the border. A new French-Italian police agreement signed in December 2020, which focuses on preventing border crossings by increasing controls on the Italian territory, has resulted in what could be described as the militarisation of train stations and public spaces in Ventimiglia. The report mention that Kesha Niya, a collective that operates on the field in Ventimiglia, has reported 1,868 pushbacks in February 2021, 2,256 in March 2021 and 924 in April 2021.
Border controls have also led to new forms of Detention, including de facto detention in areas such as the police station of Menton, which cannot be accessed by civil society organisations. This has been upheld by the Council of State as lawful during the period necessary for the examination of the situation of persons crossing the border, subject to judicial control. In October 2019, a French Member of European Parliament was refused access to the police station in Menton as it is not considered formally as a place of detention.In a report on detention conditions in the context of immigration in France, published in March 2020, the European committee for the prevention of torture (CPT) reported that the material conditions in the premises in Menton were extremely poor and could undermine the dignity of the people placed there. The Committee has expressed serious doubts on whether people who are refused entry to the territory are able to know, understand and exercise their rights. On 10 December 2020, the administrative court of Marseille suspended the decision of the Prefect prohibiting access of NGOs to the place where migrants are kept at the border in Hautes-Alpes. A similar decision has been issued by the administrative court of Nice on 30 November 2020 regarding access to the police station in Menton. In 2021, the prefects of Alpes-Maritime and Hautes-Alpes have again issued new decisions denying the access to NGO’s, but the administrative courts of Nice (4 March 2021) and Marseille (16 March 2021), and then the Council of State (23 April 2021), have confirmed the illegality of these decisions. However, the Council of State refused the main request, which was the closure of these places of detention
Media reports have documented incidents of unaccompanied children refused entry by police authorities and directed towards the Italian border. The Italian Minister of Interior also accused France of such practices back in October 2018. In 2020, French Administrative courts have regularly condemned the Prefecture for its illegal practices at the border violating the rights of the children. Several NGOs further published a report in October 2020 on the illegal practices of the French authorities in this regard, which seem to be applied at several borders. In a report published in May 2021, Human rights watch stated that “French police summarily expel dozens of unaccompanied children to Italy each month in violation of French and international law”.
Despite strong condemnation by monitoring bodies, civil society organisations, as well as court rulings condemning Prefectures for failing to register the asylum applications of people entering through Italy, practice remains unchanged. In response to a report by the General Controller of Places of Detention (CGLPL), the Ministry of Interior stated in June 2018 that refusals of entry are not in contravention of the law, invoking Article 20(4) of the Dublin Regulation according to which “[w]here an application for international protection is lodged with the competent authorities of a Member State by an applicant who is on the territory of another Member State, the determination of the Member State responsible shall be made by the Member State in whose territory the applicant is present.” Through this statement, the Ministry implies that asylum applications are made before French officials on Italian soil.
A preliminary inquiry into unlawful police practices in Menton was launched in February 2019, but was still pending at the beginning of 2022. In July 2019, several NGOs have sent documented requests to the Prosecutor in Nice and to the Special rapporteur on the human rights of the migrants in order to cease violations of fundamental rights at the French-Italian border.
Local habitants have supported asylum seekers at the border inter alia by rescuing them on the mountain, but the increased restrictions on access to the territory have been coupled with criminalisation of humanitarian assistance. Several persons helping migrants have been prosecuted and ultimately convicted by French courts. For example, on 8 August 2017, Cedric Herroux received a four-month suspended sentence by the Court of Appeal of Aix-en Provence for helping migrants. The Constitutional Court held in July 2018 that this sentence was unconstitutional as it violated the fraternity principle, and the Court of Cassation quashed the conviction. Convictions continue to be delivered in other cases.On 26 February 2020, the Court of Cassation further held that the protection of acts of solidarity is not limited to individual and personal actions but also extends to a militant action carried out within an association. Consequently, another conviction of Cedric Herroux was quashed by the Court of appeal of Lyon in May 2020. As reported by a Member of the European Parliament, Damien Carême, actions of volunteers trying to help migrants at the border are still complicated by the police in the beginning of 2021.
Access at the Spanish land border
Due to the increasing number of migrants arriving in Spain, the French-Spanish land border has become one of the main entry points to France since 2018. Spanish media have reported that migrants are pushed back from France to Spain without appropriate guarantees, in procedures lasting less than 20 minutes. Reports have shown Border Police officials controlling groups of migrants in Hendaye, placing them on board a van and leaving them at the border instead of handing them over to their Spanish counterparts. In February 2021, the border police illegally returned a 16-years old unaccompanied child from Bayonne (France) to Irun (Spain). The NGOs which reported the incident indicated that these illegal practices are recurrent and recalled that the authorities must take into account the best interest of the child, in accordance with the United Nations Convention on the Rights of the Child.
Civil society organisations have denounced what appears to be a practice mirroring the methods of the Border Police on the Italian border. Médécins Sans Frontières (MSF) alerted in February 2019 that “[p]eople are denied the opportunity to apply for asylum in France, and minors are not considered as such; they are routinely turned away and sent back to Spain, instead of being protected by the French authorities as the law requires.” Local authorities in Bayonne have also criticised current practice vis-à-vis migrants arriving from Spain. According to the Fundamental Rights Agency (FRA) of the UE, intensified police checks implemented since the beginning of 2021, with the deployment of 1,200 to 1,600 police officers each week, led migrants to take more risks. For instance, a migrant died in early August 2021 when trying to enter France by crossing the Bidasoa River which marks the French–Spanish border, the press reported.
According to the media, 11,000 refusals of entry decisions have been issued at the Spanish land border in the area of Pyrenees Orientales during the first 10 month of 2020, i.e. twice as many as in 2019. In 2018, 10,500 refusals of entry had been issued during that same period of 10 months at the French-Spanish border.In 2021, media reported that 13,254 refusals of entry were issued in the area of Pyrénées-Atlantiques. In the first 8 months of this year, 31,213 refusal of entry were notified at the Spanish land border, up 146% compared to the same period the previous year.
Access at borders in overseas territories
In Mayotte, thousands of people are arriving each year from Comoros and sometimes from African or Asian countries, especially Sri Lanka. In 2021, 6,355 migrants (3,989 in 2020) have been arrested at sea trying to reach Mayotte illegally according to the authorities.In French Guyana, 2,500 refusals of entry have been reported in the first semester of 2020. No data is available for 2021 in Guyana and the Reunion Island.
Access at airports
ANAFE (the National Association of Border Assistance to Foreigners – Association nationale d’assistance aux frontières pour les étrangers) is, an organisation that provides assistance to foreigners in airports. In its Annual report published in September 2020, the organisation highlighted several difficulties in accessing the right of asylum at airports. According to the latter, there is a general lack of information on the right to seek asylum and difficulties occur in the registration of asylum claims at the border. It further highlights the important role of the Police in practice and the obstacles it may create regarding the asylum application. The same difficulties have been reported by ANAFE in a report published in January 2022. Similar issues are further described below under the Border procedure (border and transit zones).
Legal access to the territory
Refugees can legally access the territory through resettlement programmes. France had undertaken to resettle 5,000 people per year in 2020 and 2021, from sub-Saharan Africa or the Middle East, thereby adding to the initial resettlement commitment of around 100 households per year under a framework agreement concluded with UNHCR in 2008. However, only 1,211 persons were resettled in 2020 and 1,827 in 2021. France further committed to resettle 5,000 people in 2022.
France also contributes to relocation from Greece to other European countries through a voluntary relocation scheme. From August 2020 to December 2021, 366 adults and 491 unaccompanied minors have been relocated from Greece in this context.
As mentioned on the OFPRA website, a foreign national can apply for an asylum visa at a French representation in their country of origin. In practice, this possibility is only available in a few embassies, following specific commitments by France. A report on immigration sent by the Ministry of the Interior to the French Parliament in 2022, covering 2020 data, mentions the implementation in recent years of visa programmes for Syrians, Iraqis, and Yazidi women.
Public data on this type of visa does not allow for a clear understanding of this issue, as the “humanitarian visa” category includes all these different legal pathways to the territory and probably other unknown practices:
|Total Humanitarian visas||9,158||12,333||12,246||4,573||14,035|
|Refugees and stateless persons||9,122||11,931||10,874||4,402||13,807|
|Territorial asylum / protection||36||402||1,371||171||228|
 Article L.213-2 Ceseda.
 Article L.213-2 Ceseda, as amended by Article 18 Law n. 2018-778 of 10 September 2018. Note that in response to a report by the General Controller of Places of Detention (CGLPL), the Ministry of Interior stated in June 2018 that the jour franc does not apply in the context of reintroduction of Schengen border controls: Ministry of Interior, Response to the CGLPL, 18-019754-A/BDC-CARAC/JT, 7 June 2018, available in French at: https://bit.ly/2SEfU7k, 5.
 Amnesty International France, La Cimade, Médecins du Monde, Médecins sans Frontières, Secours Catholique-Caritas France, Anafé, MRAP, Syndicat des avocats de France, ‘Nous demandons une commission d’enquête parlementaire pour le respect des droits des personnes exilées à nos frontières’, 3 December 2019, available in French at : https://bit.ly/2FS8Vix.
 Assemblée nationale, ‘Proposition de résolution nº 2394 tendant à la création d’une commission d’enquête sur la violation des droits humains aux frontières françaises’, available in French at : https://bit.ly/3cj0fD4.
 Assemblée nationale, Rapport de la commission d’enquête sur les migrations, les déplacements de populations et les conditions de vie et d’accès au droit des migrants, réfugiés et apatrides en regard des engagements nationaux, européens et internationaux de la France, 10 November 2021, available in French at : https://bit.ly/34aftsC
 European Commission, ‘Member States’ notifications of the temporary reintroduction of border control at internal borders pursuant to Article 25 et seq. of the Schengen Borders Code’, available at: https://bit.ly/3pnjCid.
Le Monde, 24 octobre 2021, « Immigration, le Royaume-Uni veut durcir son système d’asile », available in French at : https://bit.ly/3wemSmn; Le Monde, 4 janvier 2022, « Les traversées de la manche par des migrants ont atteint un chiffre inédit en 2021 », available in French at : https://bit.ly/3HWo6oo.
For more information, refer also to the AIDA report on the United Kingdom, available at: https://asylumineurope.org/reports/country/united-kingdom/.
 Council of State, Decision n°440756, 8 July 2020, available in French at : https://bit.ly/3acd5QQ .
 InfoMigrants, ‘Critical situation for migrants at Italian-French border’, 9 February 2021, available at: https://bit.ly/3aMpBHa; See also: ECRE, ‘France: Evictions Continue amid Winter Emergency while Council of State Allows Preventing Media Access, 12 February 20201, available at: https://bit.ly/3jRTbip.
 Council of State, Order No 411575, 5 July 2017.
 Council of Europe, CPT, Rapport au Gouvernement de la République française relatif à la visite effectuée en France par le Comité européen pour la prévention de la torture et des peines ou traitements inhumains ou dégradants (CPT) du 23 au 30 novembre2018, 24 March 2020, available in rench at : https://bit.ly/39rfnJw.
 Anafe, ‘Refus d’assistance médicale et juridique aux personnes exilées enfermées à la frontière franco-italienne : le tribunal administratif de Nice sanctionne l’Etat’, 1December 2020, available in French at : https://bit.ly/3GCxLj6.
 Republica, ‘Migranti prigionieri per ore”, nuovo caso al confine francese’, 17 July 2019, available in Italian at : https://bit.ly/2Urx8Vh; News Deeply, ‘Dodging death along the Alpine passage’, 25 January 2018, available at:https://bit.ly/2H99SDP; France Culture, ‘Quand les mineurs africains sont abandonnés dans la montagne’, 17 November 2017,available in French at: https://bit.ly/3bar89f.
 See e.g. Administrative Court of Nice, Orders n° 2000856, 2000858, 24 February 2020 ; Administrative Court of Nice, Orders n° 2000570, 2000571 2000572, 7 February 2020.
 Amnesty International and others, ‘Les manquements des autorités françaises aux devoirs élémentaires de respecter, protéger et mettre en œuvre les droits des mineur.e.s isolé.e.s étranger.e.s en danger aux frontières intérieures terrestres de la France (frontières franco-italienne, franco-espagnole et franco-britannique)’, October 2020, available in French at : https://bit.ly/3acF5Um.
 General Controller of Places of Detention (CGLPL), Rapport de visite des locaux de la police aux frontières de Menton (Alpes-Maritimes) – Contrôle des personnes migrantes à la frontière franco-italienne, June 2018, available in French at: http://bit.ly/2JjUpzY; National Consultative Commission for Human Rights (CNCDH), Avis sur la sitation des migrants à la frontière franco-italienne, 18 June 2018, available in French at: https://bit.ly/2sKHZdJ.
 See e.g. Anafé, Persona non grata : Conséquences des politiques sécuritaires et migratoires à la frontière franco-italienne, January 2019, available in French at: https://bit.ly/2E2EJQ6; ECRE, Access to asylum and detention at France’s borders, June 2018, available at: https://bit.ly/2JaRrSu; La Cimade, Dedans, dehors: Une Europe qui s’enferme, June 2018, available in French at: https://bit.ly/2MrISQj; Forum réfugiés-Cosi, Pour une pleine application du droit d’asile à la frontière franco-italienne, 24 April 2017, available in French at: http://bit.ly/2mQY26t.
 See e.g. Council of State, Decision n°440756, 8 July 2020, Op. cit. ; 20 Minutes ‘Nice : La préfecture à nouveau épinglée pour des violat ions du droit d’asile à la frontière franco-italienne’ 3 March 2020, available in French at: https://bit.ly/39p6CTI; Administrative Court of Marseille, Order N° 1901068, 18 March 2019; Administrative Court of Nice, Order No 1701211, 31 March 2017; Order No 1800195, 22 January 2018; Order No 1801843, 2 May 2018.
 Constitutional Court, Decision 717-718, 6 July 2018.
 Court of Cassation, Decision 17-85.736, 12 December 2018.
 See e.g. La Croix, ‘Le délit de solidarité est toujours sanctionné’, 15 January 2020, available in French at https://bit.ly/35UplBq ; Anafé et al, ‘Les 7 de Briançon lourdement condamné·e·s par le tribunal de Gap’, 13 December 2018, available in French at: https://goo.gl/GxyvYy.
 MSF, ‘Migrants trapped in relentless cycle of rejection on French-Spanish border’, 6 February 2019, available at: https://goo.gl/CdT9gC. See also Accem et al., ‘Augmentation des arrivées en Espagne : l’Europe doit sortir la réforme de Dublin de sa paralysie’, 4 December 2018, available in French at:https://goo.gl/8ZCpAg.
 UNHCR, Resettlement data finder