Migrants in a camp in Calais, in December 2018. Credit: Mehdi Chebil
Migrants in a camp in Calais, in December 2018. Credit: Mehdi Chebil

The French asylum and immigration law passed in September contained a new measure: As of January, the immigration authorities will offer voluntary return assistance for migrants detained in administrative retention centers (CRA). The government set a goal of 3,000 voluntary returns for the year 2019.

As part of the asylum and immigration law passed in September 2018, the French Office for Immigration and Integration (Ofii) will facilitate voluntary return assistance for migrants being held in administrative retention centers whose asylum claims have been rejected and who are in the process of being expelled. Didier Leschi, General Director of the Ofii, details the new measure.

Was this option available to people detained in these centers before?

Didier Leschi: The Ofii has always been involved in the process of returning people detained in retention centers to their countries of origin. Before, though, it was not stated in the law that our agents could offer them assistance for voluntary return. The asylum and immigration law adopted in September 2018 changed that. From now on, information about voluntary return assistance will be provided by the OFII in the centers and it will then be up to the migrants to ask to take advantage of it. It is always preferable that people return voluntarily rather than being forced to return.

How will the assistance work?

The aid is essentially a stipend of 650 euros that is given to the person in the form of a card that can be activated once he arrives in his country of origin. The return ticket is also paid for. This return assistance is not the same as reintegration aid.*

Whoever is in the retention centers is eligible for voluntary return assistance?

All persons coming from countries whose citizens need a visa for France may apply for voluntary return assistance. That is to say, people who can return to Europe without a visa, Albanians and Georgians in particular, cannot benefit. We have not yet started awareness programs in retention centers, we will start gradually. We set ourselves a goal of 3,000 voluntary returns for 2019.


* Assistance for voluntary return and reintegration can be requested from the Ofii at any time before being sent to a retention center. Through those programs, the Ofii finances the return of the migrant to his country, as well as a project that he has conceived that has been validated by the Ofii.


 

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