The provision of information is codified in Article R. 521-16 Ceseda:
“The asylum seeker receives an information document about the asylum procedure, their rights and obligations they must respect 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 before OFPRA. 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 has 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, but there is no information as to whether this is effectively done in practice. The guide was updated in September 2020 and is available in French and 30 other languages. 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 however has published 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 2022.
Moreover, in 2014 OFPRA published a guide on the right of asylum for unaccompanied minors in France 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 the 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 encourage 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 was handed over to NGOs. However, OFPRA’s website was updated regularly with information for asylum seekers on a dedicated page (only available in French, however).
Information on Dublin
Information provided about the Dublin procedure varies greatly from one Prefecture to another. When going 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 to them 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. 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 notes a serious lack of information as to the possibility of requesting admission to French territory on asylum grounds (see section on Border Procedure). When a person is arrested at the border, they are 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 administrative detention procedure 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. 521-16 Ceseda.
 Article L. 343-1 Ceseda.