4. The asylum request at the Ofpra
A. Submission of the asylum request at the Ofpra
After the appointment at the Guda, you must fill in the Ofpra (French office for the protection of refugees and stateless persons) asylum request form1 in French. Do not forget to date and sign it.You must then send it by registered letter with delivery receipt or hand it in to the Ofpra within 21 days of the date on which you obtained the asylum application certificate.
Along with the form you must also send 2 recent identity photos, a copy of the asylum application certificate and any other document useful for your asylum story (see below). If you have a passport you must provide the original.
If the Ofpra considers that your file is complete, you will receive a registration of your asylum request letter.
1. The different sections of the Ofpra form
- Civil status section: make sure that you correctly fill in the fields regarding your civil status. If you make a mistake, ask the Ofpra to fix this information. You can request that the public prosecutor make changes, but this process is very slow;
- Family members section: this part is very important if you arrived on your own in France and wish at a later date to bring your family here (factsheet no.9);
- Itinerary section: copy the information provided to the Spada, in particular the date of your arrival in France, which is an important piece of information;
- Language: The Ofpra interview takes place in the language or dialect that was declared when registering the asylum application. If it is impossible to receive the services of an interpreter of that language, another may be used if it is reasonable to think that you will also understand it;
- Asylum story section: this is the most important section because an asylum request is a request for protection based on your life story and your fear of persecution (see below).
The form can be completed at any time (up to the date of the Opfra interview). You must send any additional information and any copies of documents supporting your claim of fear of persecution by registered letter with delivery receipt to the Ofpra.
2. Closure of your asylum request by the Ofpra
- If you do not send the form to the Ofpra within 21 days without a “valid reason”, the Ofpra will ask you to resolve the situation within 8 days. If you miss this deadline, the Ofpra will close your asylum application. A “valid reason” could be, for example, a serious medical problem;
- If you have not sent your address to Ofpra within a "reasonable time period". If the person has not provided an address, the date of notification which could not be made by mail for lack of address will be the date of the Ofpra decision;
- The Ofpra can close your application if you refuse to provide information regarding your history, your identity, your nationality, etc., or if you have not informed them of your address or place of residence within a reasonable time period and you cannot be contacted to examine your request.
Following a decision to close your file, you may ask for it to be reopened within a period of 9 months.
3. The Ofpra can rule that your request is ineligible
- If you are recognized as a refugee by another Member State of the European Union or another country (as long as the protection is authentic and you are able to be readmitted there);
- If you make a request for reconsideration without providing any “new evidence”. New evidence must be pertinent and must support your claims of “personal fears”. This new evidence must have happened after the procedure at the CNDA, otherwise you must prove that you had no knowledge of it before the hearing (Ceseda Art. L. 723-16).
4. The Ofpra can place you into the fast-track procedure (procedure accélerée)
Your placement in the fast-track procedure will have already been decided at the Guda stage (even if it is in reality a decision officially taken by the Ofpra) if you come from a "safe country of origin" or if it is your second asylum application (reconsideration).
After receiving your asylum request form, the Ofpra can also decide to place you in the fast-track procedure (Ceseda, art. L. 723-2):
- In case of “fraud”: false declarations, false documents, the same person presenting multiple requests under different identities, etc.;
- If your declarations are “manifestly inconsistent and contradictory”. These cases are added to the other reasons for placing a person in the fast-track procedure (factsheet no.2).
5. Exclusion and termination clauses
Ofpra terminates protection, on its own initiative or that of the prefecture, if it realizes that the person enters into one of the cessation and exclusion clauses (Ceseda, Art. L 711-3 & following). It will have the obligation to refuse or terminate protection in particular (Ceseda, Article L. 711-6):
- if you have received a criminal conviction punishable by ten years’ imprisonment in France, in another country of the European Union or in another "another democratic country";
- if you have been convicted of acts of terrorism;
- and finally, if your presence in France constitutes a serious threat to the security of the State, whether or not it has been subject to prosecution and / or criminal convictions. This may be serious threats to security of the State, a crime or offense constituting an act of terrorism, or serious threats to French society.
For these last two cases, the person concerned must also represent a serious threat to society.
B. The asylum story
From this story, the Ofpra must be able to see if your history justifies you being granted refugee status, and, if not, subsidiary protection.
Your asylum story must explain in a precise manner:
- who you are;
- your nationality;
- where you come from;
- why you have been forced to flee your country and seek the protection of another country. You must also explain why you are being persecuted in your country of origin or country of residence, or the risks to which you are exposed as a result of armed conflict.
Describing situations of troubles or war which may exist in your country is not enough: you must describe your personal history and convince the person who reads your story that you personally have been the victim of persecution, or that members of your family, people close to you, or comrades-in-arms have been killed or have been subject to persecution, which implies a threat to your own safety.
1. Who are you?
- your full name, your nationality, your date and place of birth;
- which country you come from, and more specifically, which region, which village or which neighborhood of a town (the Ofpra will ask you questions about this subject to check if you are really from this region);
- who are or who were your parents and your brothers and sisters (state their current situation: name, age, address of residence, occupation, marital status, etc.);
- any ethnic or religious group you may belong to, or membership in any minority that is subject to discrimination, etc.;
- your current family status: married or in a civil partnership or single, your children (age, gender), state if these members of your family are in France, remain in your country of origin, or if they are dead.
2. Your personal history
- where you grew up and in what circumstances;
- education, studies undertaken, vocational training, etc.;
- the occupations that you held in your country, the sources and amount of revenue you had (a shop, a farm, a trade, or another profession, etc.);
- the different places you have lived and the reasons for moving;
- how your personal and family situation has evolved: your work history, how you met your partner, the birth of your children, any illnesses, etc.;
- any other activities: your membership in a political party, a trade union, a religious group, a fraternity, an association, etc. (describe this group, state its significance, its objectives and its characteristics);
- how you came to join this party, trade union, etc.; what was your exact role and your level of responsibility (simple card-holder or active member);
- your participation in any protests, public meetings, collective actions, social movements, guerrilla activities, etc. (which precise activities you participated in, with whom, and how many times);
- according to your personal history, indicate if you have been subject to discrimination or persecution as a result of these activities, or because of your sexual orientation, your belonging to an ethnic group or your opposition to an arranged marriage, etc.
3. What incidents or dramatic events forced you to leave
- threats received (who? when? how?);
- being prevented from exercising your profession or occupation;
- racket, confiscation of property, extortion, blackmail, different types of coercion;
- physical attacks, destruction of property, eviction from your home;
- arrests, violent interrogations, beatings, torture, rape (dates, circumstances, perpetrators of the violence to which you were subject, etc.);
- trials, sentences, periods in prison (dates, locations, precise description of these locations, persons involved, etc.);
- arrests, beatings and injuries, rape or murder of parents, friends, colleagues or other members of a group to which you belonged;
- forced exodus;
- massacre, genocide;
- aspects of persecution related to gender and gender identity can be recognized by the Ofpra.
- what steps you took to request protection from the authorities in your country (making a complaint, initiation of legal proceedings, letters or visits to agents of the administration, etc.);
- what the outcome of these initiatives was.
4. What route did you take to get to France
- at what precise moment you decided to leave;
- how this departure was organized (funds raised, help received, contact made with smugglers, etc.);
- the choice of the country in which you are seeking asylum (why?);
- the exact itinerary with the dates, the different stages, the means of transport used, the cost.
5. What could happen to you if you returned to your country today
- what changes have occurred in your region of origin since you left;
- do you risk being subject to the same persecutions as before? Would the threats you received be carried out?;
- do you risk the same fate as your relatives or friends who have suffered or died as a result of the situation you described before or since your departure;
- why you would not be safe in another town or another region of your country of origin.
6. Evidence to submit with your story:
You are not required to provide evidence of the different information in your asylum story: the most important thing is to provide a story that is sufficiently precise, consistent and non-contradictory, to be credible and to convince the Ofpra case officer.
However, in addition to the information that you provide, do not hesitate to provide documents that support your credibility (witness statements, administrative documents, press articles, medical certificates, etc.).
C. The interview with an Ofpra protection officer
1. Appointment notification letter for the Ofpra interview
You will receive a notification to report to the Ofpra at the latest 15 days before the interview.
The Ofpra may waive the possibility of inviting you to a personal interview:
- if it intends to make a decision recognizing your refugee status (this is unusual);
- if, for serious medical reasons beyond your control, you cannot attend this interview. In this case, you must send medical evidence by registered letter with delivery receipt to the Ofpra as soon as possible.
If the Ofpra decides that your request is ineligible or decides to close your file (see above), you will not be asked to attend this interview.
2. What will happen in the confidential interview
The interview is very important: it is conducted by a protection officer responsible for recording your asylum story and for making a positive or negative decision.
It is extremely important that you prepare for this meeting with an association, or at least with friends, before going to the Ofpra. The interview is crucial because it is at this point that everything is decided: you must convince the Ofpra officer that you need protection.
The officer will ask you questions to obtain more details about your asylum story. If they do not ask you questions, describe yourself the event which forced you to leave your country (see above).
If you have not given a passport or identity document, it is important to prove your nationality by providing detailed information about your country (your region, your town, your neighborhood, its customs, its geography, etc.)
The interview takes place in the Ofpra offices (or exceptionally by video conference call) in the presence of:
- the protection officer. You can request to be interviewed by an officer of the same sex if your asylum story includes incidents of sexual assault (make the request to the Ofpra by letter or e-mail);
- a lawyer (paid by yourself) or an association if you request it. In 2018, twenty-seven associations are authorized to have someone accompany you are, among them: Ardhis, Anafé, Cimade, Forum réfugiés, Coordination lesbienne en France, the "Lesbiennes Dépassent les Frontières" network, Ordre de Malte. In general, these associations accompany only people followed by their legal advice services. This accompanying person must inform the Ofpra of their presence 7 days before the interview (4 days in the case of a fast-track procedure). During the interview, the accompanying person may take notes and provide observations at the end of the meeting (about the story, but also about any problems: difficulties of understanding, difficulties with interpreting, attitudes, facts not mentioned by the protection officer, etc.);
- the interpreter in the language indicated on the Ofpra form. It is recommended that you request an interpreter who speaks your native language (specify your dialect). This will avoid a direct translation by the protection officer into a language that you have less knowledge of.
The interpreter’s presence is free. You can request an interpreter of the same sex if your asylum story describes sexual assault;
- your family members: in principle, you are interviewed without the presence of your family members. But if the Ofpra deems it necessary, it can undertake a complementary interview in the presence of your family members.
3. Assessment and the Ofpra decision
The Ofpra must as a rule make its decision within 3 months of the date of the interview, but this period can be longer. In the case of a fast-track procedure, the period is 15 days in theory but, in reality, much longer.
The officer will check if your story is consistent with the situation in your country of origin. Next, they will study your asylum request to see if you fall under the definition of refugee status according to the Geneva convention– articles 1 and 2 (10-year residence permit) or if you may benefit from subsidiary protection under article L.712-1 of the Ceseda (4-year residence permit).
The decision must be justified when it is negative: it includes a summary of the reasons for which the Ofpra has not granted protection.
In case of rejection, the date of reception of the decision is fundamental because you have 1 month from this date to make an appeal (factsheet no. 5) and only 15 days to request legal aid. It is therefore vital to immediately inform the Ofpra if you change your address.