The French Court of Auditors (Cours des comptes) has published a public report analysing the politics of entry, stay and first reception of third country nationals in France. Regarding the state’s asylum policy, the Court finds that while the number of asylum seekers in France has steadily increased over the last ten years reception and administrative capacities are far from matching the demand, and, along with the entire immigration system, require urgent modernisation.

In 2018 and 2019 France was one of the countries with the highest number of registered asylum claims (154 620 in 2019) as numbers in other main countries of arrival in the EU, such as Spain and Italy, declined. Half of the total of 276,576 first residence permits France granted in 2019 derived from protected individual rights enshrined in the constitution and international treaties, such as the right to seek asylum.

Given inaccurate predictions of numbers, the Courts finds that the amount of financial means allocated to guaranteeing the right to asylum has run counter to the factual increase in demand.  Recent budgetaire and organisational measures have proved insufficient to achieve the operational and legal objectives, particularly in the area of accommodation and decision-making. In 2019, not more than one in two asylum seekers received the adequate accommodation they are entitled to under EU and national law leading the court to conclude that the lack of adequate and sufficient reception facilities remains a structural problem.

Regarding decision-making, the court finds that the time limits given by the state to the French Office for Refugee Protection (Ofpra) are stricter than official legal obligations and unrealistic, their implicit aim being the deterrence of unfounded asylum claims instead of an increase of the efficiency of the processing system.

Moreover, in order to limit immigration, the French State has complicated the permit system requiring frequent renewal but failed to modernise it making the relations between administration and clients ever more arduous. In addition, integration is hampered by the lack of reception facilities as well as insufficient means for language courses.

The court lists a number of recommendations to modernise the current immigration system, including the simplification of the accommodation system, adjusting decision-making deadlines, and facilitating the renewal of residence permits.

The 2019 update of the AIDA country report on France features an overview of measures taken to limit access to the asylum procedure for newly arrived asylum seekers, following the Covid-19 outbreak at the beginning of 2020 after the completion of the Court’s report.

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Photo: (CC) Carl Campbell, October 2016

This article appeared in the ECRE Weekly Bulletin . You can subscribe to the Weekly Bulletin here.