The Administrative Court of Paris issued an order on 14 February 2019, following an urgent action (référé-liberté) brought by several civil society organisations against obstacles to accessing the telephone appointment platform set up by the French Office for Immigration and Integration (OFII) for the registration of asylum applications in the Ile-de-France region.

OFII inaugurated a telephone appointment system for the Ile-de-France region in May 2018. The telephone appointment with OFII does not substitute the existing procedural stage prior to registration with Prefectures in France, whereby asylum seekers obtain an appointment with an orientation platform (plateforme d’accueil de demandeurs d’asile, PADA), which then gives them an appointment to appear before the “single desk” (guichet unique de demandeur d’asile, GUDA) at the Prefecture to register their claim. The telephone platform only gives applicants an appointment with the PADA via text message. It therefore constitutes an additional administrative layer in an already complex registration process.

NGOs have criticised the telephone platform as inefficient, referring to people unsuccessfully attempting to call several times, or waiting for over half an hour on the phone before speaking to OFII. In addition, despite initial announcements of free-of-charge access, calls to the telephone platform are charged 0.06 € per minute by phone operators. The cost can be exorbitant for asylum seekers given that they have no access to reception conditions before their claim is registered and are often destitute.

The organisations requested interim measures from the Administrative Court to prevent the violation of the right to asylum stemming from the obstacles to access to the asylum procedure. Barriers to asylum seekers’ access to registration in Paris have been successfully litigated in previous years.

The Administrative Court acknowledged the efforts of OFII to overcome delays and avoid physical queues before the different PADA in Paris. However, it held that the technical and practical obstacles to access to the telephone platform have resulted in “virtual queues” of asylum seekers who do not manage to receive a response despite repeated attempts during several days; according to OFII, about 30% of callers have to call at least six times before getting through.

The Court ordered OFII to deploy at least two more full-time staff members until the end of February 2019 so as to reinforce the capacity of its telephone platform. For the asylum seekers directly concerned by the action, the Court ordered OFII to grant appointments within 48 hours.

Telephone or online systems for registration of asylum applications have also been set up in other European countries, including Greece, Italy and the United Kingdom.

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This information was first published in a more extensive version by AIDA managed by ECRE*

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