A. SPADA reception center
In order to apply for asylum in France, you must first of all report to a first reception center (Spada or Pada). You may not go directly to the prefecture or to the Ofpra (French office for the protection of refugees and stateless persons).
The Ofii gives out brochures explaining the proceedings but translations are not provided in all relevant languages (www.ofii.fr/demande-d-asile). Certain translations are available by telephone (English, Arabic, Dari, Pashto, Spanish, Tamil, and Mandarin). If you don’t speak any of the available languages you can try to get translation help from certain day-centers.
The number you must call (01 42 50 09 00) is difficult to get through to. The “dematerialization” (paperless system) of the appointment booking system put in place in many police prefectures makes the asylum seekers waiting to apply invisible, and also makes it impossible to argue if there is any problem.
You must go as soon as possible to the Spada. Even though there is no time limit for requesting asylum and you can request asylum even after years of living in France, if you say that you arrived in France more than 90 days ago, the prefecture will place you in the fast-track process (factsheet no. 2-1). This fast-track process is less favorable for you.
Each Spada is managed by an association which works on behalf of the French government. Its role is multiple since it must inform you about asylum, give you the necessary documents to file an application for protection, and help you with the asylum application procedures, especially if you are not living in a housing center.
1. Inform you about asylum
The Spada must inform you about asylum and provide you with the information documents produced by the Ofii (The French office for immigration and integration), a government body (factsheet no. 2).
2. Help you with the registration procedure
The Spada must help you fill out the asylum request registration form and check that the file is complete, in order to send it to the prefecture.
To complete the form, the Spada officer will ask you questions about:
- Your civil status (first names and surname, nationality, family situation);
- The itinerary of your journey from your country of origin;
- How you entered French territory;
- If you have already requested asylum in France or in Europe…;
The form and a photo taken by webcam will be sent to the prefecture.
If you do not want to answer these questions or if the prefecture realizes that you have given false information, the prefecture can decide that you do not wish to “cooperate” and can place you in the fast-track procedure, which is not in your interest (factsheet no. 2).
3. Make an appointment for you at the prefecture service window
The Spada must obtain an appointment for you at the prefecture service window called GUDA within 3 days (or 10 days if the number of asylum seekers is particularly high) and to provide you with a notification of this appointment.
4. If you have no housing
If, after your visit to the GUDA, the Ofii does not offer you long-term housing, you must return to the SPADA which must:
- Domicile you (i.e. provide you with a fixed address which is very important for receiving mail);
- Fill in the Ofpra asylum request form with you (factsheet 4);
- Help you write your asylum story and translate it (factsheet 4);
- Help you obtain the health insurance that asylum seekers have a right to (factsheet 6);
- Provide you with special assistance (vouchers, food parcels) and direct you to the municipal reception service if necessary (CCAS or Municipal center for social action).
The Spada has the obligation to help you, as this organization is financed by the government with a contract requiring it to fulfill certain tasks. If the Spada does not help you enough, after being registered by the Spada, you can contact an association which helps asylum seekers.
5. Accompany and domicile beneficiaries of international protection
Following the new contract bid made by the Ofii, the Spadas are also responsible for accompanying and domiciling beneficiaries of international protection.
B. The centers of reception and examination of situations
In order to remedy the malfunctions of the reception procedure, the state set up a second system giving access to the asylum procedure which is spreading to the entire French territory. It’s composed of centers of reception and examination of situations (CAES). In some regions in particular in the Hauts-de-France and Ile-de-France, CAES have opened to provide shelter and an examination of the administrative situation as soon as possible, before directing asylum seekers, more or less quickly, towards housing depending on their administrative status (see the Cimade’s map to know their locations).
Each CAES as a specific reception capacity. The stay should not exceed ten days in theory. In practice, the stay is longer because of the recurring lack of housing spaces for asylum seekers in France. Depending on their administrative situation, asylum seekers can be sent to centers which can have a coercive functioning. People in the Dublin procedure who go through a CAES in the Parisian region are, most often, hosted in centers located in Ile-de-France which can be “house arrest” centers in which id checks and arrest can take place. If those centers are full, people are sent outside of the Parisian area to centers of reception and orientation (CAO) or directly to one of the Pradhas, centers aiming to facilitate deportations of persons in the Dublin procedure.