|Name in English||Number of staff||Ministry responsible||Is there any political interference possible by the responsible Minister with the decision making in individual cases by the determining authority?|
|French Office for the Protection of Refugees and Stateless Persons (OFPRA)||1,005||Ministry of Interior||No|
The OFPRA is responsible for examining applications for international protection and competent to take decisions at first instance. It is an administrative body falling under the responsibility of the Ministry of Interior and its institutional independence is explicitly laid down in law, which means that it does not take instructions from the Ministry of Interior. In 2020, the budget of the OFPRA amounted to € 91,7 million and it was composed of 1,005 staff members at the end of the year.
As regards its internal structure, the OFPRA has different units dealing with different procedures as well as different asylum applicants. This includes a unit entitled “asylum at the border”, which is responsible exclusively for claims lodged in waiting zones and detention centres. The OFPRA has also set up five thematic groups (“groupes de référents thématiques”) of about 20-30 staff each dealing with vulnerable applicants, as will be explained further below. Another administrative arrangement visible in the OFPRA relates to the units which are organised according to geographical criteria.
Quality control and assurance
An action plan for the reform of OFPRA, adopted on 22 May 2013, has been implemented since September 2013. It includes a monitoring mechanism of the quality of the decisions taken through an assessment of several sample cases. In addition, a “harmonisation committee”, chaired by the Executive Director, was created to harmonise the doctrine, including monitoring the jurisprudence of the CNDA.
An agreement was signed in 2013 between the OFPRA’s Director General and the UNHCR Representative in France establishing quality controls and an evaluation grid with criteria on three main stages of the examination of asylum cases: interview, investigation and decision. The objective is to envisage useful measures for the improvement of the quality of the decisions.
In this context, three evaluations were carried out by OFPRA and UNHCR in 2013, 2015 and 2017, based on representative samples of asylum decisions taken in 2013 and 2014 and the first half of 2016 respectively. The results of the monitoring are available online. At the time of writing (March 2020), there was no information on whether another evaluation would be conducted in 2020.
The latest report published in November 2018 contained mostly positive conclusions concerning interviews and decision-making at OFPRA. It confirmed diminishing disparities between OFPRA and UNHCR examiners’ positions. As mentioned in the previous quality control reports, no major difference was noticed in OFPRA’s treatment of asylum applications under the accelerated procedure and under the regular procedure.
However, important shortcomings were highlighted. In 12% of the case files under review, it was deemed that the interview report was difficult to read. Moreover, it was found that for as high as 13% of the cases, the way interviews were conducted showed that no complementary questions were asked by OFPRA when the statements of the asylum seeker were considered to be insufficiently consistent or credible. Also, in more than 30% of the cases, no question is mentioned in the interview report about the circumstances under which the asylum seeker had written his or her asylum narrative. In 12% of the cases reviewed, no mention was found in the interview report ensuring that the correct understanding of the interpreter by the asylum seeker had been checked. In about 10% of the cases reviewed, the examiners expressed a disagreement as to the relevance of the decision taken. In more than 20% of the cases reviewed, the legal reasoning applied was found to be insufficiently thorough. A lack of assessment of the probative value of the relevant documents of the case was also highlighted.
Taking into account the results of these quality controls, regular trainings are being provided to caseworkers, in particular regarding the interview, the assessment of proof and supportive documents and the reasoning of decisions taken. Trainings are provided in-house by OFPRA as well as a by EASO.
 Article L.721-2 CESEDA.
 See a description of the action plan for the reform of OFPRA, 2014 Activity report, 10 April 2015, 54-55.
 OFPRA, Contrôle qualité: premier exercice d’évaluation, September 2014, available in French at: https://bit.ly/2KhfZZ6; Contrôle qualité: deuxième exercice d’évaluation, May 2016, available in French at: https://bit.ly/2kgUqvO; Contrôle qualité: troisième exercice d’évaluation, November 2018, available in French at: https://bit.ly/2GJPZmD.