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Every asylum seeker in France will have an interview with Ofpra (Office français de protection des réfugiés et apatrides), the French office for the protection of refugees. Ofpra makes the final decision on whether a person receives asylum in France. Here is a basic guide to what happens during an Ofpra interview. You can read the Ofpra instructions in French here.

What is it for?

The purpose of the Ofpra interview is for the French immigration authorities to understand why you are asking for asylum in France. It gives asylum seekers the chance to tell their story and explain their motives in person. It is also an opportunity to add or clarify information in your case file.

The interview is confidential. The information that you give will not be shared with anyone outside Ofpra.

How do you get an Ofpra interview?

You need to fill out and mail the formulaire Ofpra, which is the form you need to formally apply for asylum. Then you will receive a summons for an interview. 

What happens during the interview?

An Ofpra officer will interview you about the things you have experienced and why you are requesting asylum. They do this to confirm the asylum statement you made in the formulaire Ofpra.

Here are some of the topics they may ask you about:

  •         If you have fears of persecution in your home country, such as threats to yourself, your family, your community or your religious group.

  •         If you have already experienced persecution in your home country. This could include physical attacks, arrests, coercion, rape, or forced exodus directed at you or your community.

  •         If you requested protection from the authorities of your country.

  •         Your journey to France: When did you decide to leave? How? What route did you take?

  •         What would happen if you returned to your country today? What changes have occurred? What dangers would you face?


The Ofpra officer will write down all your responses and add this verbal testimony to your case file.

Ofpra should make a decision on your case within 6 months after the interview.

Can I use an interpreter?

Yes. You can ask for an interpreter in your native language. You can ask for an interpreter of the same gender as you. Ofpra says that 80 percent of interviews take place with an interpreter.

Who else can come to the interview?

The main people are you, the Ofpra officer, and the interpreter. However, you have the right to be accompanied by a lawyer or by a member of certain organisations. Ofpra allows representatives from the following organisations: Ardhis, Anafé, Cimade, Forum réfugiés, Coordination lesbienne en France, CQFD Fierté lesbienne, Ordre de Malte. Click here to see the official list.

You must notify Ofpra at least seven days before your interview if you will be accompanied.

How long does it last?

There is no set time limit. The Ofpra will take the time necessary to hear your case.

What are some reasons the Ofpra might reject my file?

The Ofpra officer will first make sure that what you say in the interview matches the information in your file. Then they will make sure that you meet the United Nations definition for refugee status. If not, you may still be eligible for other protection under French law.

What if I cannot attend my interview?

You must notify Ofpra as soon as possible. If it is because of a serious medical reason, you must send medical evidence to Ofpra. If you do not attend the interview without a serious reason, it can have negative consequences: Ofpra can close your case without considering it.

'She wanted me to verify and clarify things'

Dana, a Syrian refugee living in France, told Infomigrants about her experience:

"I came to Paris directly from Damascus, Syria, in 2013. I had a tourist visa, and then I applied for asylum. I registered at the prefecture, and then sent my file to Ofpra. About two months later, I received the appointment for my interview at Ofpra.

When I arrived at the interview there was already an interpreter there. The Ofpra officer asked me if I spoke French and I said no, so I spoke in Arabic through the interpreter. She was Egyptian, so we had no problem communicating. I mostly spoke in standard Arabic, with some words in Syrian Arabic.

In your Ofpra file, there is a lot of basic information, and then there is your personal story. First the officer asked me about the basic information: 'What’s your name? Where are you from?' Then she asked me to confirm my personal story. She wanted me to verify and clarify things that were already in the narrative. So she would ask, 'This event, what was the exact date? Why did it happen?'

The whole interview lasted about an hour and a half or two hours.

I didn’t consult a lawyer, but I did ask my brother and my friends about what to expect from the Ofpra interview."

 

Authors: Avner Davis
 

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