Category Archives: Refugee

Tuition-Free Online degrees Offered To 500 Syrian Refugees

University of the People (UoPeople) offers tuition-free, accredited online degrees in Computer Science & Business Administration to Syrian refugees.

Free online accredited online degrees for Syrian Refugees
Generously donated in-part by the Fondation Hoffmann, this scholarship is available to all students who identify as a refugee or asylum seeker from Syria only.

The special scholarship will cover the costs of examination fees for up to 10 exams. Upon completion of the funds awarded, students may apply for another scholarship, and thus potentially cover the entire cost of a 2-year Associate or 4-year Bachelor’s degree.

Students only need to prove they have a qualified level of English, completed high school and have access to computers with internet. 

A special policy, approved by the DEAC (University’s US accrediting agency), has been established in order to admit refugees and asylum seekers even if official transcripts and documents of previous degrees cannot be obtained.

How to register for the online degree
To apply for the scholarship, refugee students from Syria must simply start their online application. The online application is divided in four steps.

Before you complete Step 4, you will receive an email from your personal Admissions Advisor.

You will need to reply to him/her and mention that you are a refugee from Syria and you are interested in the scholarship. They will be happy to help you from there onwards.

UoPeople is an accredited online university. Refugee students in camps, moving to a new country or returning home will be able to pursue higher education wherever they are.

EU Asylum Seeker Policies, Country by Country

In the past weeks and months, some EU countries have decided to change the way they accept and process asylum seekers’ applications depending on the person’s nationality and how they reached their destination country. A lot of contradictory information is being shared on social media.

Migreat, the trusted platform for information on immigration, will list (and keep updated) the actual asylum policies for most EU countries and highlight the ones with fair policies towards refugees (as well as pointing out the countries with rules that are not ideal).

We will be updating this article every month [Last update: 25th November 2015]

Germany
Germany has re-implemented checks at its border and is now sending back asylum seekers to the first EU country where they were registered. This policy went into affect on October 21st.

During the first week of November, Interior Minister Thomas de Maizière declared that refugees arriving on the German border will be deported back to the first European Union country they entered. It means that Germany is now treating asylum seekers’ applications according to the Dublin Agreement. It is a reversal of the policies that were in place beginning at the end of August, 2015.

In addition, refugees from Syria are not being provided protection in accordance with the Geneva Conventions on refugees. The vast majority of Syrian refugees, who traveled through Turkey or other allegedly “safe countries of origin” during their journey, will only receive subsidiary protection. They will receive the right to reside for just one year rather than three years, and they cannot bring their family members to Germany.

The German government is striving to implement this closure, even though an interior ministry spokesman stated that there would be “no turning back at the borders,” only regulated deportations.

Sweden
Sweden has re-introduced border control checks too. Swedish police are now monitoring trains and ferries arriving from mainland Europe and stopping anyone without valid travel documents.

Anyone seeking to apply for asylum will not be turned back. This measure is implemented to create a more orderly process of arrival for refugees. The intention is to deter those hoping to cross Sweden to reach other Scandinavian countries.

Read more on Swedish reformed asylum seeking process for Syrians – dated: September, 2015.

France
France has re-introduced border control checks as a result of the Paris Terrorist Attacks of November 13th. The policy of welcoming refugees will not be changed and applicants for refugee status in France are expected to undergo tight security checks.

France will respect its commitment to helping 30,000 asylum seekers over the next several years.

Read more on France recent reform of Asylum Law and Refugee Immigration System.

Austria
Austria plans to construct barriers along its border with Slovenia to control the flow of refugees more effectively rather than stop everyone entering the country.

Austria wants to be able to carry out controls on the movement of people and it will not be a razor-wire barrier like the one in Hungary.

Hungary & Slovenia
These countries have begun building a border fence aimed at stopping refugees from both entering and using their countries to transit to more western countries in the EU.

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At Migreat, we regret that only Greece, Italy and Hungary are legally being held responsible for the vast majority of migrants due to the refugee seekers first being registered in those countries. Here the five things you can do to help refugees.

Keep up to date with the European Union’s Refugee crisis on Migreat blog by following us.

Can Tech help refugees? Take-Aways of #Techfugees conference and Hackathon

On October 1st and 2nd, leaders in the Tech Community gathered in London to brainstorm about what mobile and web technologies could be created that could help refugees find new homes and begin their new lives in Europe. Migreat was there, to present a prototype of an immigration assistant aimed at refugees and to participate in the effort. Here’s a recap of the intense two days and some of the main ideas that came out of the event.

A Spontaneous Reaction from the Tech Community
The event was organised in just two weeks time via a Facebook group led by Mike Butcher and supported by many other local industry representatives like Nesta,  London Tech Advocates, Skills MattersPavla Kopecna and the Exponential Network who offered space, sponsorship and support during the event.

Over two days, a group of 300 software developers, tech enthusiasts, NGOs and institutions like the UNHCR discussed, demonstrated and started building  technologies that have the potential to do things like save lives at sea and help refugees navigate the EU geography and immigration systems.

Here is the full agenda and live-stream of the presentation and participants

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Migreat presented and demo’d its immigration wizard and community platform that serves over two million migrants in Europe today.

We were impressed by What3words mapping technology, inspired by Marieme Jamme speaking as a refugee herself (and who is now a successful entrepreneur) and left energized by the UNHCR’s visionary talk.

The first day demonstrated how complex the crisis is and moved Ed Saperia to write on the hackpad the day after “A lot of people are building a lot of things all across the world, much of which is duplicated or never makes it to deployment. So (..) have  a look at other things people are doing” before building something yourself, Ed advised.

Techfugee Hackathon
Now hacking!

At the hack, the atmosphere was definitely more collaborative than competitive. Teams of volunteer software developers were split amongst small tables and given a common online hackpad with information from the previous day. Some people roamed the room to exchange information on what each table’s project was on and to connect similar/complimentary projects.

Migreat’s Experience
We met a group building an online platform to connect refugee families to local UK host families – and it made us want to share our experience developed while building local online communities with Migreat.

We discussed with the Hack Humanity group the possibility of building an algorithm of probability of refugee applications approval.

Refugee Immigration Wizard App

The event brought food for thoughts for Migreat team who proudly presented an immigration wizard for refugees at the end of the night (above).

Outcome & the future of Techfugees
Serving as a platform to connect concerned individuals and organisations, the event successfully showed  how the UK tech community can collaborate and work towards solutions to what looks to be one of EU’s most pressing issues.

Techfugees hackathon group picture

The event enabled the creation of a crowd-sourced map of organisations, and connections between them. The hackpad is still being updated with new events everyday since the event earlier this month and has started an online exchange of information between people building similar projects at the European level.

One of the essential goal of the Techfugees, says Mike Butcher is to build a “Minimum Viable Product” which in the language of the tech community means to see working prototypes and solutions emerging in the next months. For our part, Migreat is looking forward to launching our refugee immigration wizard 🙂

TechFugees Conference Line-up

Here is the full agenda and video of the Techfugees Conference of October 1st 2015.

03:24 – Mike Butcher – Welcome – Techfugees @TechFugees
10:21 – Sadaf Ahmed – Refugees in Calais – Musafir Collective @Musafir_Kitchen
25:50 – Adam Rodriques – Mapping Smuggling Networks – Global Initiative against Transnational Organised Crime – @darthsunglasses
44:30Sonia Ben Ali – The Urban Refugee experience – @UrbanRefugees
1:01:33 – Andrej Mahecic – UNHCR – @UNHCRUK
1:24:19 – Klaus Bravenboer – Hack Humanity – @HackHumanityCo


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1:58:00 – Peter Conlon – Global Donation widget – ammado – @ammado
2:15:36 – Richard Sargeant – Home Office – @richardsargeant 2:20:35 – Sholi Loewenthal – My Refuge – @sholiloewenthal
2:32:00 – Giles Rhy Jones – 3 words to address the crisis – What3Words – @What3Words
2:43:55Marieme Jamme – The Refugee Experience – Africa Gathering – @AfricaGathering

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4:01:55 – Josh – Childrens English language learning app Little Bridge – @Little_Bridge
4:04:05 – Anne Kjaer Riechart – Refugees On Rails – @RefugeesOnRails
4:16:05 -Funding Tech for Good Projects

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Gary Stewart @garystew – Moderating panel
Gi Fernando – Founders for Good – @gifernando
Kieron Kirkland – CAST – @kieronkirkland
Paul Miller – Bethnal Green Ventures – @rellimluap
Damian Peachey – BBVA – damian.peachey @ bbva.com
Debu Parkayastha – Mercy Corps – @MercyCorps_UK
Sadaf Ahmed – Musafir Collective – @Musafir_Kitchen
4:45:00 – Marianne Bouchart – Data Journalism & The Refugee Crisis – Hei-Da – @Maid_Marianne

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5:27:55 – Paula Schwarz – Startup Boat – @startup_boat
5:33:30 – Katharina Dermuhl – Migration Hub
5:40:20Tara Mikheal – Migreat@taramikhael
5:46:30 – panel moderator Rohan Silva – Second Home – @Rohan_Silva Demos
6:08:40 – Franziska Becka – Hashtag Charity – @franziskabecker 6:12:05 – Frank Khan Sullivan – Project Temp Home – @fksullivan 6:15:50 Pranay Manocha – Refugee Maps – @RefugeeMaps 6:19:25 – Dr Asif Qasim MA PhD FRCP – MedShr – @MedShrOnline 6:22:40 – Helen Campbell / Emerson Tan – NetHope – @NetHope_org
6:29:00 – Raphael Mazet – CliqStart – @Cliq_Start

6:32:35 – Cristoffer Harlos – Migreat – @Migreat
6:36:15 – Mans Gardfeldt – Orphan Gift – @gardfeldt (non attendance) Murtada Alsaif – Written Medicine – @WrittenMedicine
6:41:35Bernhard Niesner – Busuu – @bernardooo
6:45:40 – Sarah Raslan – Aktashif – @sarahrazzel
6:51:30 – John Handcock – British Red Cross – @uxjonh
6:52:40 – Shelley Taylor – Refugee Aid App – bit.ly/refaid
6:55:20 – Mike Butcher – Techfugees Next Steps – @Techfugees

Some good blog post that summarise the day talks:
TechFugees Rally to Tackle European Refugee Crisis by RefMe
We are techies. We are here to help by Nesta
Techfugees in London by Andy Mayer
Techfugees by Lynn

Read our blog post about the event – and for more information visit techfugees’ website

Sweden offers permanent residency to all Syrian refugees

Following Germany’s announcement to drop EU rules to accepted  more refugees, Sweden announced it will grant permanent residency to all Syrian Refugees and Syrian Asylum seekers.

The decision comes in the light of the non resolution of the conflict in Syria and means that approximately 8,000 Syrians who have temporary residency in Sweden will now be able to stay in the country permanently. With permanent residency rights come the right to bring one’s family to Sweden.

In 2012 and 2013, a total of 14,700 Syrian asylum seekers came to Sweden. Together with Germany, Sweden is the EU country which has accepted the highest number of asylum seekers from the war-torn country. 

Warning: these policies were implemented over the summer 2015 as emergency measures. At Migreat, we do our best to update content and immigration information with the latest news – and give you always the date at which the content has been published or update. Check our page on refugees to get up to date with immigration legislation for refugees in Europe

How you can help refugees: 5 things you can do right now

If European leaders do not want to raise the quotas of refugees accepted in Europe, more people will die in their desperation to flee persecution and reach safety.

Here are some of the ways you can help at home – You can also read our blog post about great long term initiatives that helps refugees integrate their new country.

Giving back a smile on Refugees faces Photo Credit MOAS.eu Jason Floro
Giving back a smile on Refugees faces Photo Credit MOAS.eu Jason Floro

1. Sign an online petition
The first thing that needs to happen is for quota from each country to be raised. Tell your governments you disagree with their conservative numbers by signing a petition.

2. Make a donation
Give money to one of these non-governmental organisation (NGO) that have been working with refugees from the beginning.

  • Migrant Offshore Aid Station: dedicated to preventing migrant deaths at sea. This is the first and most imminent need.
  • The UN Refugee Agency (UNHCR): providing water, mosquito nets, tents, healthcare. It is important people feel secure and are provided with a shelter for their families.
  • Red Cross Europe: providing emergency health services at central train stations. Many suffer from illness and sickness provoked by the hardship of life as a refugee.
  • Refugee Action: advice about claiming asylum, the asylum process, asylum support. It is important for refugees not only to feel safe and in health but to believe in a brighter tomorrow and be granted civil rights in a country to move forward. This is what Migreat does by providing information on immigration and people at Refugee Action go the step further.

3. Volunteer, offers good or collect for these organisation

  • Offer shelter to a Syrian refugee in your own house: http://www.tenthousandhomes.org.uk/3.html
  • Volunteer to provide care and health services with Doctors of the World
  • Volunteer at Migreat.com to translate paralegal content in Arabic and French.
  • Put #RefugeesWelcome banners at football matches
  • Support WatchTheMed: A network of volunteers are helping migrants/refugees at sea in the Mediterranean. When Migrants are in distress, they can send a mobile phone alert and the charity track their movements on the map and send a warning to the closest authorities: http://watchthemed.net/
  • Send books to Calais for the makeshift Jungle Library
  • Teach English and help refugees find a house with Avaaz.org.

4. Vote with awareness of what is happening

Stay informed about immigration policies of your country at all times by  subscribing to Migreat newsletter, and agree or disagree if they are making sense to you and protect migrants from abuse. Migrants for most have no right to vote. Don’t forget this.

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Read more on the refugee crisis and its latest news by clicking on the EU refugee crisis tag.

Refugees Searching for a New Continent – Photographic journeys from undocumented migrants

Migreat spoked with Phil Le Gal,  a French documentary photographer, currently travelling in regions where asylum seekers are found to be entering the EU. Phil tells us about his initial documentary project on the Schengen space, what is happening in Calais on the ground and the importance to paint a more human picture of the crisis in the media.

The Start of the New Continent Project

Two years ago, Phil had formed the project to tour Europe’s in the aim to document with pictures and local migrant stories the human impact of the Schengen Agreement signed thirty years ago – on June 14th 1985.

“[Europe] has been suffering from bad publicity, whether it’s about migration, or about Greece and economics. But so much has been achieved,” he said. “Twenty-six countries without passport controls — you just whizz through and it’s amazing. And the fact that you can have rights in all these countries is amazing. People now take it for granted.”

The project named “the New Continent” aimed first to report on the new borders of the EU and celebrate the agreement’s achievement: a peaceful Europe, finally re-united. But the project went through a major refocus after May 2014.

A defining moment: the rise of extreme rights movements and the Calais crisis.

In May 2014, European extreme right parties – the likes of UKIP, Golden Dawn and Le Front National – won a majority of seats – and soon followed an IFOP poll that stated half of Western Europeans would be in favour for a return of border controls.

For Phil Le Gal, the EU elections was a “defining moment. That’s when I decided to go forward with the project”. Initially, Phil had a map of places where he wanted to go and collect stories. This is how it looked like:

Refugee Europe Map

However, after his visit to Calais and the news of an unprecedented wave of refugees crossing borders of Europe, Phil Le Gal had to adjust his travel plans to accommodate with the news. He no longer follows his map but let the news and refugees tell him which places to go next.

Using a documentary approach to media – he writes on his blog his reflections – coupling this with an embracement of social media tools – he posts daily on instagram and facebook pictures on the ground. He even set up a studio for a day.

Abdullah from Sudan. Photo Credit: Phil Le Gal.
Abdullah from Sudan. Photo Credit: Phil Le Gal.

Phil has now been documenting the refugee’s perspective of the Schengen space and it is working: his pictures illustrated an article from the World Policy Institute and other major media. What he has to say about the crisis seen from the ground is tough and draws a real insight of the current complex situation out of sensationalist headlines, expert ego fights on numbers and empathetic but naive calls.

First Insights.

Calais Refugees Afghani Brothers holding
The two friends from Afghanistan met on the route to the UK. They have arrived in Calais and they say there are looking after each other. They are posing in front of a makeshift shop in Calais’ Jungle.

Phil started in Calais’ named “jungle” – today perhaps one the most embarrassing and mediatic hot spot of the refugee crisis after the Macedonian border and the wall being currently built in Hungary. At the end of the summer, he will have stopped by most hot spots: Serbia, Hungary, Italy and Greece.

“What you see there is an unprecedented of number of people who have reached this area. Calais is unique because it offers three ways to reach the UK: by boat, lorry or train; and it is one Schengen border within the EU.”

Most asylum seekers Phil has met had sometimes little knowledge of European Geography. In Hungary, Phil met an undocumented migrant who asked him where he could find a taxi to Sweden. “They do not know that there is a border in Calais” – says Phil.

With a little sense of Geography, they also all share no knowledge or poor information about their rights in the UK. “Some asylum seekers in Calais have friends or relatives in the UK. They are bilingual with some mostly speaking a bit or good English. They are coming from regions which were, for some of them, previously part of the British Empire. They think life will be better there for what they have been told. They have no idea that they will likely end up living in modern slavery and that refugees can be detained there – unlike in France”.

Over the summer, Phil started distributing disposable camera to them so they can themselves document their journey and life. So far 20 cameras have been distributed over Europe and Phil has had no news yet. “I asked them to get in touch when they are in a safe place”.

Eritrea proud refugee boy
Awel is from Eritrea. He is only 12 and has been living in the Calais Jungle for many weeks.

The summer UK headlines of Calais and a surge of journalists reporting there seems to have empowered migrants – and brought a positive change in the camps. Night lights and water are now available in what Phil continues to call a “shanty town”.

The French Government closed the Sangatte centre, the humanitarian centre and shelter that was build for asylum seekers in Calais in 2002. “The French Government does not want to build a full scale asylum center as a way of not acknowledging the problem”.

Caption: Musa from Darfour. Musa has arrived 3 weeks ago in the Calais Jungle. He has been wearing the amulet around his neck since he left Africa. He hope it will protect him when trying to reach the UK.

“Many of them suffer of post traumatic disorders because of their journey through the Mediterranean. When I meet them, some want to share their stories. They want to talk, talk, talk, and talk to tell what happened – like a psychologist. They want their stories recorded and known; for others that are going to take the same journey, they ought to know better the truth of the way we welcome asylum seekers in Europe”

Phil is at the moment putting together these stories gathered during summer 2015 and aim to release related material in the coming weeks.

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Follow the project on social media: The new continent on Facebook, The new continent on Instagram. and web site : http://TheNewContinent.eu

Family members of Refugees may choose to apply for asylum in the same EU country

For many asylum seekers, choosing the country of asylum is already a complex issue – it gets even more complicated when the country they want to apply for asylum in, is actually not responsible for the review of their asylum application under the EU “Dublin” regulation.

Syrian Refugee asylum application

Indeed there is a misunderstanding in the media that asylum seekers can only apply to the country they arrived first. However, the regulation sets out a more complex list of criteria for determining which EU member state where an asylum seeker can concretely apply for asylum. 

Understanding this mechanisms makes it easier to determine the country in which an asylum application can be lodged. It may also allow applicants to join family members that previously applied for asylum in the EU.

Applying for asylum in an EU country where family is already resident
Notably, any asylum seeking applicant with a family member (regardless of whether the family was previously formed in the country of origin) currently allowed to reside in a EU member state as a beneficiary of international protection (refugee status or subsidiary protection for instance), can apply for asylum in that same country. It is this country that is responsible for examining the application for asylum, provided that the person concerned expressed this desire in writing.

For example, a Syrian in Italy can express in writing his desire to join his partner recognized as a refugee in France. Unless an express request is made, the transfer won’t happened.

Same mechanism applies if the applicant has a family member in a member state whose application for international protection is pending and has not yet been the subject of a first decision.

An Afghani located in France can apply to join his partner currently living in the UK If that partner has made an application for asylum in the UK.

What is a family member?
Note however that for the purpose of the regulation “family member” does only include:

– the spouse of the applicant or his or her unmarried partner in a stable relationship (where the law or practice of the member state concerned treats unmarried couples in a way comparable to married couples under its law);

– the minor children of couples referred to in the first indent or of the applicant;

– when the applicant is a minor and unmarried, the father, mother or another adult responsible for the applicant;

– when the beneficiary of international protection is a minor and unmarried, the father, mother or another adult responsible for him.

According to French judges, this mechanism does not apply to siblings (CE, réf., 24 décembre 2007, n° 311677) and to extended family. Read more about how to apply for asylum in France on Migreat blog

For example, this mechanism does not apply to a Syrian in Germany willing to join his brother who is a refugee in France.

The “Dublin” regulation sets out other criteria for the determination of the responsible member state taking into consideration the interests of minors, family procedure, issue of residence documents or visas, entry and/or stay in another member state, visa waived entry, application in an international transit area

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You can ask further details to Migreat expert and author of this article, Lou-Salomé Sorlin, lawyer in France specialised in refugee law and immigration law (focus on asylum applications – Afghanistan, Iran, Egypt, Syria, Iraq, etc.; advocacy; risks of detention, expulsion and extradition).

Photo credit: worldreliefnashville.org

Read more on the refugee crisis and its latest news by clicking on the EU refugee crisis tag.

Germany drops Dublin agreement to allow in Syrian refugees

[This article was published on August 25th 2015 – it is no longer valid as Germany has decided to review its decision on how to handle asylum seekers applications]

While a majority of Western Europeans would be in favour of ending the free movement of people across borders, according to a new IFOP poll, Germany announced yesterday it is dropping EU rules to allow in Syrian refugees.

Dublin agreement

A young boy has boarded a bus with his family. Credit: Phil Le Gal, The new continent.
A young boy has boarded a bus with his family. Credit: Phil Le Gal, The new continent.

Under the Dublin agreement rules, asylum seekers in the EU can only apply for refugee status in the first EU member state they enter, and face deportation if they try to apply in another – some exemptions exists for family members only.

However, Germany decided to stop enforcing this rule for Syrian asylum seekers.

From now on, Syrian refugee applications will be channelled into the regular asylum procedure and will not be given the Dublin questionnaires usually provided to applicants.

A humanitarian or migrant crisis?
Thousands more people crossed the Balkans towards Western Europe on Monday. Countries like Macedonia and Greece are being overwhelmed by the numbers, and lack current capacity to deal with the current flow.

Germany is preparing to welcome 750.000 asylum seeking applications this year. France just reformed its asylum seeking procedures.

Road sign showing the limit of the Calais municipality. Photo credit: Phil Le Gal for The new continent Project
Road sign showing the limit of the Calais municipality. Photo credit: Phil Le Gal for The new continent Project

UK media has been focused to report on the “migrant crisis” in Calais where an approximate 2,000 asylum seekers/undocumented migrants are trying to cross the border illegally.

Since 2014, Britain has accepted 187 refugees under its vulnerable persons relocation scheme. The scheme was set up after the UK declined to participate in the UNHCR resettlement programme for Syria, arguing that “it would be tokenistic given the huge numbers of refugees and that the best approach to the crisis was the provision of humanitarian aid.” This summer David Cameron says Britain will accept ‘a few hundred’ more Syrian refugees from the 4 million displaced by the war.

Sebastian Kurz, the Austrian foreign minister, said yesterday that “This is a humanitarian disaster. (…) The Dublin agreement no longer works” after visiting Macedonia. The Balkans are “overrun and overwhelmed”, he said. “The Dublin system doesn’t only work terribly, it actually doesn’t work at all any more”

 

Photo credit: Phil Le Gal, The new continent project.

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Keep up to date with the EU Refugee crisis on Migreat blog by following us.

Applying for Refugee Status in France: Quick Review of Changes to Immigration Laws and Processes

France recently passed a reform to its immigration law for refugees & asylum seekers. This change will have significant impact on processing times for asylum seeker applications and the rights of asylum seekers in the application process.

Migreat asked Lou-Salomé Sorlin, French immigration expert on asylum cases to tell us more about the current process and what the new rules mean for asylum seekers currently in France or interested to look for asylum in France.

The Asylum Process in France
[MG] What is the process by which an immigrant can start applying for French refugee status?
[LSS] It depends on where you apply from.

[MG] How about applying from outside France?
[LSS] People can apply for a long term visa on the grounds that they are looking for asylum in France (visa de long séjour délivré au titre de l’Asile) at a French embassy outside of France. Even though most applications are rejected, it is an option to consider if someone has a strong case to prove (official documents, solid proof that they have suffered (or fear) persecution on account of race, religion, nationality, belonging to a group or political opinion). [If denied] people can contest the refusal of the visa at the Tribunal Administratif Nantes.

[MG] How about applying from within France?
[LSS] If already in France, asylum seekers must apply by visiting the Prefecture, the regional institution representing the French State in each of France’s regions, with the right documents in hand. At the Prefecture, each person will be given a form to fill out to go along with that person’s administrative documents. Additionally, the applicant’s biometric data will be taken – to verify that they have not already claimed asylum in another European country.

Start the process as soon as possible, as it takes on average one to two years to be granted refugee status in France.

[MG] Who is eligible to apply for asylum in France?
[LSS] Applying for asylum in France is a two steps process, where one has to register to the Prefecture before being granted the right to apply to asylum.

Unless the prefecture finds out that:

  • The applicant has entered Europe from another country or has already applied for asylum in another EU country (Dublin Ruling);
  • Applied for asylum in another EU country;
  • Are from a country listed as a safe country free from persecution by the CNDA;
  • Are a threat to French Government or society; and/or have major criminal record;

The prefecture will then issue a temporary authorisation to reside in France (APS) within a maximum of 15 days after the applicant’s visit, allowing them the right to reside in France for a month renewable and apply for asylum within the next 21 days.

If the prefecture refuses the right to stay in France on one of the grounds quoted above – and so refuses the right for the applicant to apply for asylum to the OFPRA, a person’s options to apply to asylum in France are restricted. If the reason for refusal is because of the application being handled by another EU country (Dublin II ruling), the applicant is not allowed to apply for asylum in France at this stage. If the transfer to the country responsible has not happened in the next six months, France becomes then responsible of the asylum seeker’s application.

Advice for asylum seekers when applying
[MG] How can a genuine refugee successfully obtain and be granted refugee status in France?
[LSS] At the prefecture, a person must make sure their application is complete, that nothing is missing. Note that people can apply without ID documents if they do not have them; documents related to how you entered France can come in many formats (flight tickets, visas, etc); finally, if the applicant does not have a proof of residence, migrant associations may be able to provide the person with one.

When the applicant receives the APS from the prefecture, they should start working on their application to OFPRA (l’Office français de protection des réfugiés et apatrides) with the help of French migrant associations and/or lawyers. Refugees should know that they can access the services of free lawyers and free support from migrant associations when at the stage of court proceedings. As much as possible make use of people with knowledge.

[MG] What’s an application look like? How can someone be successful at it?
[LSS] The asylum application must be filled out and written in French. The OFPRA form has to be filled out completely – without any gaps. Applicants must explain in details their personal situation and their family’s situation.

The applicant needs to articulate strongly the reason why he/she is fleeing his/her country and the reasons why they can’t go back – reasons that are clearly relevant to what defines a refugee: someone, owing to wellfounded fear of being persecuted for reasons of race, religion, nationality, membership of a particular social group or political opinion,who is outside the country of his nationality and is unable or, owing to such fear, is unwilling to avail himself of the protection of that country;someone, owing to wellfounded fear of being persecuted for reasons of race, religion, nationality, membership of a particular social group or political opinion,who is outside the country of his nationality and is unable or, owing to such fear, is unwilling to avail himself of the protection of that country. It is important to know that the application information is confidential. None of the information provided in the application will ever be communicated to the country of origin.

It is strongly recommended that an applicant keep a copy of all and any documents provided with the application. All documents that support the personal and family details as well as prove the reasons why the applicant is eligible for refugee status. The more documents, if relevant, the better. Documents supporting the story that a person has suffered (or fears) persecution on account of race, religion, nationality, belonging to a certain social group or political opinion in their country of origin.

[MG] What more can you tell us about the interview with the OFPRA?
[LSS] It is very rare for an applicant to be granted asylum successfully without having to pass an interview with the OFPRA. As such, it is strongly recommended to prepare for it and if possible with people knowledgeable about the process and/or with their story. The new legislation makes it easier for an expert, lawyer or representative of a migrant organisation to assist the asylum seeker during the interview with OFPRA’s “officier de protection” – even to make it possible for an advisor to participate through a videoconference.

The interview is performed in the language the applicant prefers and that the applicant has mentioned on the application form. As such, it is important for the applicant to choose the language he/she feels most comfortable with. Again, it is important to mention that the interview is confidential.

Data on Asylum Seekers in France
Out of approximately 66,000 asylum seeker applications in 2014 in France, 16% were approved by the OPFRA – and 27% in total after appeal is made to the Cour Nationale du Droit d’Asile (CNDA).
Last January 2011, the EU court of Human rights ruled and fined Belgium and Greece for degrading and inhuman treatment of asylum seekers. Since then, many European countries like Germany, Sweden and the UK have stopped transferring asylum seekers back to Greece and other Mediterranean countries.

[MG] What are the options and rights for asylum seekers in France refused the right to apply to asylum in France on the ground that another EU country is responsible of their asylum case?
[LSS] An asylum seeker can contest the procedure of deportation to the another EU country with a lawyer if they have valid grounds to contest it. France and the asylum seeker have 6 months maximum to make a decision on the case. After 6 months, if the asylum seeker is not sent back to the other EU country, France may become responsible and the individual can proceed to an asylum seeking application in France.

[MG] The legal process can fail asylum seekers non familiar with administrative papers and procedures. Can you tell us a little more on the common administrative challenges?

[LSS] The process is long. On average it takes 16 months to be granted refugee status in France. The new legislation aims to reduce this process to 9 months maximum by 2017. The new legislation grants the right to work to asylum seekers after 9 months even if no decision has been taken on their application by the OFPRA. This said, in practice, employers are reluctant to employ asylum seekers without confirmation of their right to stay in France legally; and immigration rules are making it more difficult to recruit a foreigner on the grounds that employers should first look for local talent.

The administration often asks for documents and evidence that are difficult for asylum seekers to provide. It is expected that the applicant provide as many details as possible about the cause of their departure from their country, the circumstances around how it happened, the risks and persecutions he/she could potentially be subjected to if they were sent back to their country without any questions from the judges or administrators. The in person interview follows less the format of an interview than a presentation exercise where the applicant must convince officials who often have little knowledge or access to information on the situation or the cultural and political background of the applicant. For applicants, it is essential to gather as much information and to prepare as much possible for the interview with the help of trustworthy people.

The process requires knowledge of the administrative system. There are options to appeal that are not known by asylum seekers. It requires an expert or legal advisor to best understand and navigate what can look like an obscure system for applicants. A little knowledge can actually be worse than no knowledge at all – and lots of people say lots of confusing things. Applicants would benefit from looking for advice from migrant organisations and/or lawyer networks. Taking French language classes ahead of the interview or while waiting for the decision, makes it significantly easier to get familiar and feel comfortable with the process. Also, it helps that if after 9 months no decision has been taken, to find a job.

[MG] The statistics states that a large number of applicants are being granted refugee status after appeal to the CNDA. There is also a general perception that France is more welcoming to refugees than some other EU countries?
[LSS] Indeed, the right to asylum is stated in the French constitution – it is one principle of its Republic. The Cour Nationale du Droit d’Asile (CNDA) is the result of this commitment and guarantee of the right. It is the first court in terms of number of request and appeals per year.

When an applicant is refused the right to asylum by the OFPRA, he/she can appeal to the CNDA. This time a translator and lawyer are provided automatically. More than a quarter of appeals to the CNDA resulted in the cancellation of the decision to refuse asylum by the OFPRA.

Also, for humanitarian reasons, asylum seekers are not detained systematically – and the refugee status is granted for ten years, and is easily renewed. A travel document is provided to any refugee that wants to leave France. Family reunification is possible and access to French Citizenship is made faster for refugees: it is granted immediately without the need to have resided 5 years in France (but with the need to fill out all other requirements).

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You can ask further details to Migreat expert and author of this article, Lou-Salomé Sorlin, lawyer in France specialised in refugee law and immigration law (focus on asylum applications – Afghanistan, Iran, Egypt, Syria, Iraq, etc.; advocacy; risks of detention, expulsion and extradition).

For the latest information on the refugee immigration systems in Europe, follow and click on the tag EU Refugee Crisis on this blog.