Duration of detention


Country Report: Duration of detention Last updated: 18/03/21


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Duration of detention in CRA

A person can remain in administrative detention for a maximum of 90 days.[1] Prior to the 2018 reform, the maximum time limit was 45 days.

The decision of placement in administrative detention taken by the administration is valid for 2 days. Beyond this period, a request before the Judge of Freedoms and Detention (JLD) has to be lodged by the Prefect to prolong the duration of administrative detention.[2] This judge can order an extension of the administrative detention for an extra 28 days after the initial placement. A second prolongation for 30 days is possible, followed by two further prolongations of 15 days granted under certain conditions, in particular if the persons deliberately obstruct their return by withholding their identity, the loss or destruction of travel documents,[3] or the fact that despite the goodwill of the executing administration, the removal measure has not yet been finalised. Beyond this period of 45 days, any foreigner who has not been removed must be released.

In practice, the length of stay of asylum seekers who have claimed asylum while in CRA is difficult to assess. While there was no updated information for the year 2020 at the time of writing, on average, third-country nationals remained 16.8 days in administrative detention centres in 2019. In many CRA, the average detention duration was largely beyond that average:

Average duration of detention: 2019
CRA Average duration of detention (days)
Bordeaux 13.2
Coquelles 13.1
Guadeloupe 5.5
Guyane 5.6
Hendaye  16.8
Lille-Lesquin 13.9
Lyon-Saint-Exupéry 21.8
Marseille 20
Mesnil-Amelot 18.5
Metz-Queuleu 15.4
Nice 19.9
Nimes 16.2
Palaiseau 17.2
Paris-Vincennes 17
Perpignan 22.1
Plaisir 15.2
Rennes 12.9
Rouen-Osseil 13.3
Sète 15.7
Strasbourg-Geispolsheim 17.2
Toulouse- Cornebarrieu 18.7
Total 16.8

Source: ASSFAM-groupe SOS Solidarités, Forum réfugiés-Cosi, France terre d’asile, La Cimade, 2019 Detention report, July 2020, available in French at: https://bit.ly/2NKJTco.

Duration of detention in LRA

Detention in LRA can only be ordered for a maximum period of 48 hours, after which the person must be transferred to a CRA.[4] This is respected in practice.

Duration of detention in waiting zones

The placement in waiting zones is ordered for an initial period of 4 days.[5] It can then be extended by the JLD for a period of 8 days,[6] and in exceptional cases or where the person obstructs his or her departure, for 8 additional days.[7] This brings the maximum period of detention in waiting zones to 20 days in total.

If necessary, the Border Police makes full use of the possibility to prolong detention and hold people in waiting zones for 20 days, although the average period of detention is 5 to 6 days in waiting zones such as Roissy and Marseille.[8]

A final exceptional prolongation is applicable in the particular case of asylum seekers. If a person held in a waiting zone makes an asylum application after the 14th day, the law foresees the possibility of a further extension of detention for 6 more days following the submission of the asylum application, with a view to allowing the authorities to conduct the asylum procedure.[9] The detention period can thereby extend to 26 days if the person applies for asylum on the 20th day of detention.


[1]           Article L.552-7 Ceseda, as amended by Article 29 Law n. 2018-778 of 10 September 2018. Originally set at a maximum of 7 days, the length of administrative detention was extended to 32 days in 2003, to 45 days in 2011 and to 90 days in 2018. In exceptional situations, not known in practice, foreigners can be detained for 6 months when they are sentenced for terrorism.

[2]           Article L.552-1 Ceseda.

[3]           Article L.552-7 Ceseda.

[4]           Article L.551-3 Ceseda.

[5]           Article L.221-3 Ceseda.

[6]           Article L.222-1 Ceseda.

[7]           Article L.222-2 Ceseda.

[8]           ECRE, Access to asylum and detention at France’s borders, June 2018, 8.

[9]           Article L.222-2 Ceseda.

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