An asylum seeker shows the official document detailing his upcoming appointment with the prefecture. (Credit: InfoMigrants)
An asylum seeker shows the official document detailing his upcoming appointment with the prefecture. (Credit: InfoMigrants)

Starting in May, asylum seekers in the Île-de-France region around Paris will have to go through a call center run by the French government to start the asylum process. Advocates say that the system is "too complicated".

Starting in May, people in the region around Paris who want to apply for asylum will need to make a first appointment through a telephone helpline run by OFII (The French Office for Immigration and Integration). 

"We are going to establish a system for booking appointments by telephone,” said Didier Leschi, the Director General of OFII. The helpline will be in three different languages: French, English and Arabic. The phone number has not yet been established, Leschi told InfoMigrants.

Up until now, migrants who want to start the asylum process have been going to a “Pada” (a French acronym that stands for “platform for asylum seekers”), which are sites run by associations. Staff at the Pada help asylum seekers book initial appointments with the prefecture or with a “Guda” -  a space where an asylum seeker can meet up with a representative of the prefecture and an OFII officer at the same time.

20 days waiting time for an appointment

However, there’s a problem with this system: Padas in the region around Paris are unable to meet the demand of people seeking appointments. Queues are getting longer and longer (the average waiting time for an appointment is 20 days). As a consequence, hundreds of men and women are left sleeping rough while waiting for an appointment. 

The reform is aimed at reducing the number of people going to Padas. Starting in May, people will need to book appointments via telephone and cannot show up at a Pada without one.

Critique by France Terre d'asile

According to France Terre d’asile, the association that runs Padas in Paris, the OFII’s phone helpline is too complex for asylum seekers.

"This doesn’t make things simpler,” director Pierre Henry said to InfoMigrants. "I don’t think that this helpline is a good model for helping asylum seekers access their rights. I fear that at least some migrants will struggle to understand this service".

Henry also says that any reforms to the asylum system should address the issue of housing. Neither the new helpline nor the Pada take this into consideration.

"There’s no correlation between initial appointments and housing,” he said. “We need centers that combine Pada and accommodation. In that case, asylum seekers would get an appointment with the prefecture while also getting a roof over their heads."

>> Read on InfoMigrants: “How to apply for asylum in France”


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