Legal representation of unaccompanied children

France

Country Report: Legal representation of unaccompanied children Last updated: 18/03/21

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In 2019, 755 asylum claims from unaccompanied children were registered by OFPRA. This represents an increase of 2 % compared to the 742 asylum claims lodged in 2018.[1] Statistics on the year 2020 were not available at the time of writing. After keeping on decreasing since 2011, the number of claims introduced by unaccompanied children has increased in line with the overall number of asylum seekers in Europe. Yet, it remains very low compared to the overall number of unaccompanied children reported to Childcare Protection.

In 2019 the unaccompanied children seeking asylum in France mainly came from Afghanistan (207 asylum claims), DRC (97) and Guinea (78) The socio-demographic characteristics of these asylum seekers show that 86.4 % are aged between 16 and 17 years old and 72.3% were boys. In 2019, the recognition rate was 67% at OFPRA (81.5% with appeal), i.e. 40% above the recognition rate of adults.[2]

OFPRA has sought to improve the protection of unaccompanied children seeking asylum (see also Special Procedural Guarantees). According to the Chair of the working group on unaccompanied minors at OFPRA, a number of actions and objectives have been set up:

  • Training protection officers throughout all geographic sections on vulnerabilities, in particular on assessing an asylum claim introduced by an unaccompanied minor and conducting an interview with this category of asylum seekers.
  • Assessing unaccompanied minors’ claim in a shortened period of time: the objective is to have their claim processed within 4 months maximum.
  • Raising awareness on the possibility for unaccompanied minors to apply for asylum;
  • Conducting interviews of unaccompanied minors by specially trained protection officers;
  • Interviewing unaccompanied minors three months after registering their claim at OFPRA to give them time to get properly prepared;
  • Proceedings have been harmonised and online thematic folders on this topic have been created for protection officers.[3]

As unaccompanied children do not have any legal capacity as minors, they must be represented for any act under all asylum procedures. When they are deprived of legal representation (i.e. if no guardian has been appointed by the guardianship judge before placement in care), the Public Prosecutor, notified by the Prefecture, should appoint an ad hoc administrator (legal representative) who will represent them throughout the asylum procedure.[4] This legal representative is appointed to represent the child only in administrative and judicial procedures related to the asylum claim. This person is not tasked to ensure the child’s welfare the way a guardian would be. Every 4 years, within the jurisdiction of each Appeal Court, a list of ad hoc administrators is drawn up. They represent children held in waiting zones at the border or children who have applied for asylum. These ad hoc administrators receive a flat allowance to cover their expenditure. No specific training or at minimum awareness of asylum procedures is required for their selection.[5]

As soon as possible after the unaccompanied child has introduced his or her asylum claim, the Prefecture shall engage in investigating to find the minor’s family members, while protecting his or her best interests.[6]

At the border, an ad hoc administrator should be appointed “without delay” for any unaccompanied child held in a waiting zone.[7]

In practice, the appointment of an ad hoc administrator can take between 1 to 3 months. However, there are jurisdictions where the lack of ad hoc administrators or their insufficient number does not enable the prosecutor to appoint any. These children are therefore forced to wait until they turn 18 to be able to lodge their asylum application at OFPRA.

At OFPRA level, the ad hoc administrator is the only person authorised to sign the asylum application form. The CNDA has annulled an OFPRA decision rejecting an asylum claim of an unaccompanied child, after an interview conducted without the presence of the ad hoc administrator. In this decision, the Court held the conduct of an interview in such circumstances as a violation of the fundamental guarantees applicable to asylum seekers.[8]

[1] OFPRA, 2019 Activity report.

[2] Ibid.

[3] OFPRA, 2016 Activity report, 31.

[4] As provided by Article 17 Law of 4 March 2002 on parental authority and by Article L.741-3 Ceseda.

[5] Article R.111-14 Ceseda provides that, in order to be included in the list, any individual person must meet the following criteria: 1. Be aged between 30 and 70; 2. Demonstrate an interest on youth related issues for an adequate time and relevant skills; 3. Reside within the jurisdiction of the Appeal Court 4. Never have been subject to criminal convictions, or to administrative or disciplinary sanctions contrary to honour, probity, or good morals; 5. Have not experienced personal bankruptcy or been subject to other sanctions in application of book VI of the commercial code with regard to commercial difficulties.

[6] Article L.741-4 Ceseda.

[7] Article L.221-5 Ceseda.

[8]  CNDA, Mme Y, Decision No 14012645, 5 October 2016.

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