The provision of information is codified in Article R.751-2 Ceseda:
“The competent service of the Prefecture must inform the foreign national who would like to request refugee or subsidiary protection, of the asylum procedure, their rights and obligations over the course of this procedure, the potential consequences of failure to meet these obligations or any refusal to cooperate with the authorities and the measures available to them to help them present their request. This information should be provided in a language they can reasonably be expected to understand.”
Information is provided in a language that the asylum seeker understands or is likely to understand. This information have been compiled under a general “Guide for asylum seekers in France” (guide du demandeur d’asile en France). The guide is supposed to be provided by the Prefecture. The guide has been updated in September 2020 and is available in French and 30 other languages.
Practices used to vary from one Prefecture to another, and many failed to provide the guide. From the point of view of stakeholders supporting asylum seekers, even though this guide is a good initiative, it appears that most of asylum seekers cannot read or do not understand the meaning of the guide.
OFPRA published, however, a guide on procedures which has shown to be very useful both for asylum seekers and for practitioners. This includes information on the regular procedure, inadmissibility and accelerated procedures, appeals, the interview, the content of protection etc. The last version was updated in December 2019.
Moreover, OFPRA published a guide on the right of asylum for unaccompanied minors in France in 2014, which was subsequently updated in 2020. The guide is quite comprehensive, describing the steps of the asylum procedure, the appeals and the procedure at the border. However, it is more used by professionals than by minors themselves because it remains hard to understand. OFPRA has stated its intention to share this guide as widely as possible in Prefectures, in waiting zones at the border and with stakeholders working in children’s care. In practice, this guide is not available in all prefectures, however. In many regions, the prefecture agents recommend asylum seekers to download it on OFPRA’s website.
During COVID, the provision of information on the health situation and the consequent suspension of asylum activities has been shifted on to NGOs. However, the OFPRA’s website was updated regularly with information for asylum seekers on a dedicated page (only available in French, however).
Information on the Dublin procedure
The information provided about the Dublin procedure varies greatly from one Prefecture to another. When they go to the prefecture to apply for asylum, all applicants are handed, at the desks, an information leaflet on the Dublin procedure (Leaflet A) together with the Asylum Seeker’s Guide. If the Prefecture decides at a later stage to channel the applicant into the Dublin procedure, the applicant receives a second information leaflet on the Dublin procedure (Leaflet B). The Prefecture asks the applicant to sign a letter written in French which lists the information that has been provided as well the language in which this information was provided, as requested under Article 4 of the Dublin III Regulation.
The asylum seeker knows when a take charge or a take back procedure has been initiated, due to information provided on the back of their Dublin notice, which is translated into the language of the asylum seeker. Translation is an obligation recently recalled by the Administrative Court of Appeal of Bordeaux. According to the court, the absence of translation is a violation of the fundamental guarantees which much prevail in the framework of the Dublin procedure. There is, however, no information about the country to which a request has been sent, nor on the criteria that have led to this decision.
Information at the border
In the waiting zones at the border, Forum réfugiés – Cosi notes a serious lack of information on the possibility of requesting admission to French territory on asylum grounds (see section on Border Procedure). When a person is arrested at the border, he or she is notified of an entry refusal, in theory with the presence of an interpreter if necessary. However, many stakeholders doubt that the information provided and the rights listed therein are effectively understood. For example, it is very surprising to note that those intercepted nearly always agree to renounce their right to a “full day” notice period (jour franc) i.e. 24 hours during which the person cannot be returned, and tick the box confirming their request to leave as soon as possible.
In addition, as the telephone in certain waiting zones is not free of charge, contact with NGOs or even UNHCR is not easy. Several decisions by the Courts of Appeal have highlighted the irregularity of the procedure for administrative detention in a waiting zone, due to the restrictions placed on exercising the right to communicate with a lawyer or any person of one’s choice. The fact that asylum seekers may have no financial means of purchasing a phone card is therefore a restriction on this fundamental right.
 Article R.741-4 Ceseda.
 Ministry of Interior, Guide du demandeur d’asile, September 2020, available at: https://bit.ly/3uTut6A
 Administrative Court of Appeal of Bordeaux, Decision No 16BX01854, 2 November 2016.
 Article L.213-2 Ceseda.
 Article L.221-4 Ceseda.