Access to the territory and push backs


Country Report: Access to the territory and push backs Last updated: 30/11/20


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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 for removal for 24 hours.[1] 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.[2]

In 2018, the French police recorded 71,274 refusals of entry at the border, compared to 85,408 in 2017. Not date was made available for the year 2019, however.[3]

In December 2019, several NGOs have requested a parliamentary commission with the aim to investigate violations of the law at the border.[4] 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.


Access at the Italian land border


Reports of people simply being refused entry without their protection needs being taken into account at the Italian border continued in 2019.[5] 

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.[6] Since 2015, the French police has implemented operations to close the border and to prevent asylum seekers coming from Italy from entering France. The closure of the border has been maintained and police operations have been reinforced in recent years, as France maintains controls at its Schengen borders for three consecutive years. In 2019, the Government issued two decisions of temporary reintroduction of border control at internal borders, which have been notified to the European Commission. The first temporary border control applied from the period of 1 May to 31 October 2019; while the second temporary border control is valid since 1 November and up until 30 April 2020.[7] 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.[8] 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.

Illegal police operations at the border have been extended from the Menton and Nice areas since 2016, 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 on the mountains.

According to the Prefect of Alpes-Maritimes, more than 50,000 migrants have been arrested at the border in 2017,[9] of whom a striking 98% are pushed back to Italy.[10] The Prefect reported 29,000 migrants apprehended at the Italian border in 2018. [11] Data covering all French borders was not made available in 2019.  However, in the district of Hautes-Alpes (Modane), 1,254 entry bans have been notified in the first nine months of 2019 according to the authorities, compared to 3,587 in 2018 and 1,900 in 2017.[12]

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.[13] 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.

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.[14] 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.[15] 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.[16] 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.[17]

Media reports have documented incidents of unaccompanied children refused entry by police authorities and directed towards the Italian border.[18] The Italian Minister of Interior also accused France of such practices in October 2018.

Despite strong condemnation by monitoring bodies,[19] civil society organisations,[20] as well as court rulings condemning Prefectures for failing to register the asylum applications of people entering through Italy,[21] 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,[22] but was still pending at the beginning of 2020. 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.[23]

Local habitants have supported asylum seekers by rescuing them on the mountain, for example in Nevache, a small village in the Alps.[24] Others have helped some migrants to reach Nice in order to apply asylum there.[25] The restrictions on access to the territory have been coupled with criminalisation of humanitarian assistance. Several of these people 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.[26] The Constitutional Court held in July 2018 that this sentence was unconstitutional as it violated the fraternity principle,[27] and the Court of Cassation quashed the conviction.[28] Convictions continue to be delivered in other cases.[29] 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.[30]


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.[31] 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.[32]

Civil society organisations have denounced what appears to be a practice mirroring the methods of the Border Police on the Italian border.[33] 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.”[34] Local authorities in Bayonne have also criticised current practice vis-à-vis migrants arriving from Spain.[35]

On 12 November 2018, the French Minister of Interior declared that 10,500 refusal of entry decisions have been handed at the Spanish land border in the first 10 months of 2018.[36] No figures were made available for 2019.


Access at airports


In 2018, concerns have been raised with regard to persons seeking to enter France by air. A worrying development has been witnessed in the waiting zone of Beauvais, near Paris. The Border Police in Beauvais refused to receive asylum applications where it deemed that the person fell within the scope of the Dublin Regulation. The situation seems to have changed in 2019 however, according to a declaration of the police during a visit by ANAFE at the airport in September 2019.


[1] Article L.213-2 Ceseda.

[2] 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:, 5.

[3] Projet de loi de réglement 2018 – Rapport annuel de performance de la mission Immigration, asile, intégration, 13 May 2019, available in French at :, 27.

[4] 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 :

[5] See for example : AFP, “J’ai été refoulé trois fois” : à la frontière franco-italienne, des migrants prêts à tout, 4 December 2019, available in French at :

[6 See official website available in French at:

[7] 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 :

[8] Council of State, 16 October 2019, available in French at:

[9]  20 minutes, ‘Cote d’Azur : à la frontière italienne, un nombre reccord de passeurs interpellé’, 4 December 2017, available in French at:

[10]  Ibid.

[11]  Europe 1, ‘Le préfet des Alpes-maritimes annonce que le nombre de migrants est en baisse dans le département’, 23 January 2019, available in French at:

[12]       La Provence, ‘Hautes-Alpes : moins de migrants à la frontière franco-italienne depuis plusieurs mois’, 7 October 2019, available in French at :

[13]  Politis, ‘Visite surprise d'élus à la police aux frontières de Menton’, 1 April 2018, available in French at:

[14] ECRE, Access to asylum and detention at France’s borders, June 2018, available at:, 18-19.

[15]  Council of State, Order No 411575, 5 July 2017.

[16] Francetvinfo, ‘Migrants : Manon Aubry interdite d’accès au centre d’accueil de la police aux frontières de Menton’, 31 October 2019, available in French at :

[17]  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 :

[18]  Republica, ‘Migranti prigionieri per ore”, nuovo caso al confine francese’, 17 July 2019, available in Italian at :; News Deeply, ‘Dodging death along the Alpine passage’, 25 January 2018, available at:; France Culture, ‘Quand les mineurs africains sont abandonnés dans la montagne’, 17 November 2017, available in French at:

[19] 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:; 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:

[20]  See e.g. Anafé, Persona non grata : Conséquences des politiques sécuritaires et migratoires à la frontière franco-italienne, January 2019, available in French at:; ECRE, Access to asylum and detention at France’s borders, June 2018, available at:; La Cimade, Dedans, dehors: Une Europe qui s’enferme, June 2018, available in French at:; Forum réfugiés-Cosi, Pour une pleine application du droit d’asile à la frontière franco-italienne, 24 April 2017, available  in French at:

[21] See e.g. 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.

[22] Ligue des Droits de l’Homme, ‘Violences policières et administratives contre des migrants : une enquête préliminaire à Menton’, 5 February 2019, available in French at:

[23]  Medecins du Monde, ‘Atteintes aux droits à la frontière franco-italienne’, 16 July 2019, available in French at :

[24] Le Figaro, ‘A la frontière italienne, les montagnards marchent pour les migrants’, 18 December 2017, available in French at:

[25]  Nice Matin, ‘Un troisième convoi de migrants est entré en gare de Nice’, 7 June 2017, available in French at:

[26] Le Monde, ‘Coupable d’avoir aidé des migrants, Cédric Herrou « continuera à se battre »’, 8 August 2017, available in French at:

[27] Constitutional Court, Decision 717-718, 6 July 2018.

[28]  Court of Cassation, Decision 17-85.736, 12 December 2018.

[29] See e.g. La Croix, ‘Le délit de solidarité est toujours sanctionné’, 15 January 2020, available in French at ; Anafé et al, ‘Les 7 de Briançon lourdement condamné·e·s par le tribunal de Gap’, 13 December 2018, available in French at:

[30]  Court of Cassation, Decision 19-81.561, 26 February 2020, available in French at:

[31]  El País, ‘Francia usa una medida antiterrorista para devolver migrantes a España’, 1 September 2018, available in Spanish at:

[32]  Ibid.

[33] MSF, ‘Migrants trapped in relentless cycle of rejection on French-Spanish border’, 6 February 2019, available at: 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:

[34] MSF, ‘Migrants trapped in relentless cycle of rejection on French-Spanish border’, 6 February 2019, available at:

[35]  New York Times, ‘French Mayor Offers Shelter to Migrants, Despite the Government’s Objections’, 12 February 2019, available at:

[36]  Le Monde, ‘Paris et Madrid défendent leur coopération sur la question migratoire’, 13 November 2018, available in French at:


Table of contents

  • Statistics
  • Overview of the legal framework
  • Overview of the main changes since the previous report update
  • Asylum Procedure
  • Reception Conditions
  • Detention of Asylum Seekers
  • Content of International Protection
  • ANNEX I – Transposition of the CEAS in national legislation