A. SPADA reception center
In order to apply for asylum in France, you must first of all report to a first reception center (Spada or Pada). You must not go directly to the prefecture or to the Ofpra (French office for the protection of refugees and stateless persons).
The Ofii’s number (01 42 500 900) is difficult to reach. The dematerialisation of the appointment scheduling system, adopted by many prefectures, makes migrants invisible while they wait for an appointment to register their asylum application.
If you are unable to reach this number, it is possible to appeal to the administrative court.
You must go as soon as possible to the Spada (or call the Ofii’s number). Even though there is no time limit for requesting asylum and you can request asylum even after years of living in France, if you say that you arrived in France more than 90 days ago, the prefecture will place you in the fast-track process (factsheet no. 2). This fast-track process is less favorable for you, and you might be denied the Material Reception Conditions (CMA) that normally come with an asylum application, which involve housing and an allowance.
Each Spada is managed by an association which works on behalf of the French government. It has multiple roles, as it must inform you about asylum, give you the necessary documents to file an application for protection, and help you with the asylum application procedures, especially if you are not living in a housing center.
1. Informing you about asylum
The Spada must inform you about the asylum procedure and provide you with information documents produced by the Ofii (the French office for immigration and integration), a government body (factsheet no. 2).
2. Helping you with the registration procedure
The Spada must help you fill out the asylum request registration form and check that the file is complete, in order to send it to the prefecture.
To complete the form, the Spada officer will ask you questions about:
- Your civil status (first names and surname, nationality, family situation);
- The itinerary of your journey from your country of origin;
- How you entered French territory;
- If you have already requested asylum in France or in Europe…;
The form and a photo taken by webcam will be sent to the prefecture.
The questions about your journey are to check if you have travelled through other countries of the European Union in order to apply the so-called “Dublin” procedure (factsheet no. 3). Some police prefectures will only place you in the Dublin procedure if your fingerprints are in a database, while others also use what you have declared during the interviews.
If you do not want to answer these questions or if the prefecture realizes that you have given false information, the prefecture can decide that you do not wish to “cooperate” and can place you in the fast-track procedure, which is not in your interest (factsheet no. 2).
3. Making an appointment at the prefecture service desk
The Spada must obtain an appointment for you at the prefecture service desk called GUDA within 3 days (or 10 days if the number of asylum seekers is particularly high) and provide you with a notification of this appointment.
4. If you have no housing
If, after your visit to the GUDA, the Ofii does not offer you long-term housing, you must return to the SPADA which must:
- Domicile you (i.e. provide you with a fixed address which is very important for receiving mail). If you are not housed in an Asylum Seeker Reception Center (Cada), in a similar structure or in a Center for Reception and Situation Examination (CAES), then your domiciliation with the Spada is mandatory, in which case you cannot give a different postal address for your procedures including the asylum application (unless you are a tenant or owner of your home);
- Fill in the Ofpra asylum request form with you (factsheet 4);
- Help you write your asylum story and translate it (factsheet 4);
- Help you obtain the health insurance that asylum seekers have a right to (factsheet 6);
- Provide you with special assistance (vouchers, food parcels) and direct you to the municipal reception service if necessary (Municipal center for social action (CCAS)).
The Spada has the obligation to help you, as this organization is financed by the government with a contract requiring it to fulfill certain tasks. If the Spada does not help you enough, after being registered by the Spada, you can contact an association which helps asylum seekers.
5. Accompanying and domiciling beneficiaries of international protection
According to the new contract bid made by the Ofii, the Spadas are also responsible for accompanying and domiciling beneficiaries of international protection, which involves the asylum seekers who have been recognised as refugees.
B. The Centers for reception and situation examination (CAES)
In order to remedy the malfunctions of the reception procedure, the State set up a second system giving access to the asylum procedure which is being spread nationally. This second system is composed of the Centers for reception and situation examination (CAES). CAES have been opened to provide shelter and a quick examination of individual administrative situations, before directing asylum seekers, more or less rapidly, towards housing depending on their administrative status (see the Cimade’s map to know their locations).
Each CAES is limited by its specific reception capacity. In theory, the stay should not exceed ten days. In practice, the stay is longer because of the recurring lack of housing spaces for asylum seekers in France.
Depending on their administrative situation, asylum seekers can be sent to centers which function in a coercive manner. People in the Dublin procedure who go through a CAES in the Parisian region are, most often, hosted in centers located in Ile-de-France which can serve as centers for “house arrests”,in which ID checks and arrests can take place. In Ile-de-France, in order to access a CAES, you must either go through one of the day-time reception centers for isolated persons (see below) or be spotted by a roving street team.
This new preliminary step makes it impossible to directly access a CAES. This allows the government to avoid waiting lines in front of centers, such as the ones that had formed in front of the former reception center at La Chapelle (the former “bubble”). All of this once again allows the government to make asylum seekers invisible and to hide the fact that France has a deficient reception policy.
The day-time reception centers for isolated persons in Paris can accompany asylum seekers for certain procedures, but these centers are often saturated and unable to properly function.
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