The essential points
It is very difficult in France to be recognised as a minor. The State will do everything in its power not to recognise you as a minor.
If you are under 16, it is even more important to start the procedure for recognising your minority as soon as possible. This will make it easier for you to deal with future procedures.
If you are recognised as a minor and you will soon be 18, you will have to go through complex administrative procedures to obtain a residence permit when you reach the age of majority.
If you don’t have family or friends who can host you in Paris, it’s advisable to choose another destination, another small town, and then get in touch with local organisations for advice.
If you have a birth certificate, try to get a copy of it (or at least a photo on your phone). It may be useful during your interview.
At all stages of your administrative and social procedures, when you receive a decision or an official document, get in touch with an organisation that can provide you with legal, administrative, social and moral support. There are many organisations that can listen to you and discuss the various options open to you.
If you are a minor, say so clearly and immediately.
Bring any documents you have to prove your minority (birth certificate, identity document, etc.).
Recognition of minority for unaccompanied minors
You are considered to be an unaccompanied minor if you are under 18 and have no legal representative (adult legally responsible for you) in France.
France has an obligation to protect unaccompanied minors, regardless of nationality or residence status, until you become an adult (at the age of 18), even if you have not claimed asylum.
You have the right to claim asylum. However, it is advisable to start by requesting safeguards from the ASE (Aide Sociale à l’Enfance / Social assistance for children) - which provides accommodation, schooling, etc.
To decide whether to take you into care, the ASE in the Département where you live will determine, through an interview and often other tests, whether they consider you to be under 18 and whether you are really unaccompanied in France:
- You will need to describe your journey from your country of origin;
- If you have identity documents, they will be examined.
Where to go for the assessment interview?
- In some departments, you have to go to the departmental council, which is where the ASE is located.
- In others, you have to go to the reception and assessment platform (“plate-forme d’accueil et d’évaluation”).
- If you don’t know where to go and you want to be taken into care as a minor, first go and speak to an organisation. If you can’t find one, you can also go to the police, who will call the services that accompany new minors in France.
- In other towns, contact local organisations that help young people to find out about the procedures to follow. See the “contacts” section for details of contacts in different regions and cities.
Contact this association for guidance and to prepare for the administrative steps you will have to take:
Association: UTOPIA 56
Address: Place de l’Hôtel de Ville 75004 Paris 11 - France
Aim: Material support (tents, blankets) and guidance
Opening hours: Monday to Sunday at 7pm
Shelter for unaccompanied minors (AMNA)
Address: 127 rue de Tolbiac 75013 Paris
Opening hours: Monday to Saturday, 9am to 6pm
When you feel you are ready to start the process and go for an interview, go to :
- L’ACCUEIL MNA in Paris 15 boulevard Carnot 75012 Paris 1 Saint-Mandé Monday to Saturday 9am-6pm.
- PEMIE in Bobigny 1-15 rue Benoît Frachon 93000 Bobigny Libération 01 82 46 81 42 Monday to Friday 9am-5pm. Closed on Wednesday at 12pm. Come early.
Please note that during the assessment, the assessors will ask lots of questions to find out how old you are. It’s important to try to give clear, precise answers. It’s a difficult exercise and you need to be well prepared. The assessor may also base his or her decision on your appearance and behaviour during the “sheltering”.
Pending the protection decision, the ASE must provide you with shelter. However, in Paris and some other major cities, minors are still sleeping rough.
Be careful with your identity documents. If the border police say they are fake documents, you could be prosecuted.
If you do not have identity documents, a judge may ask you to take a medical test (bone test) to check your age. You have the right to accept or refuse this test.
The French administration uses practices that go against the mandatory protection of unaccompanied minors, justifying the refoulement of minors because they have a “beard” or an “adult appearance”. In this case, contact a lawyer who can help you access protection.
Since 1 March 2019, the administration can also take the person declaring themselves to be a minor to the prefecture so that their fingerprints can be taken and kept on file. This will enable the ASE to find out whether you have already made another application in a particular Département. Your application may be returned to that Département, or you may receive a refusal if your application has already been refused elsewhere.
Applying for asylum as an unaccompanied minor
Requesting care from the ASE does not prevent you from applying for asylum. The procedure is the same as for an adult. You should seek help from specialist organisations.
You will not be placed under the “Dublin” procedure and transferred to the first country where your fingerprints have been registered.
France must register your asylum application because it must take into account your best interests as a minor and your vulnerability.
However, you may ask to join a family member who has claimed asylum in another EU country.
As a minor, you cannot be accommodated in a reception centre for asylum seekers (Cada), nor receive the asylum seeker allowance (ADA). Only the ASE can host unaccompanied minors.
Unaccompanied women under 18
Rumours say that it is important to say that you are over 18, but this is not true! On the contrary, it is important to declare if you are under 18 or a victim of the sex trade. Being in a relationship with a man is not automatically an advantage, contrary to what some men say. If you are underage and you are a woman, it is important to state your real age so that you are protected.
Whatever your status, you are entitled to attend school, whose location will depend on where you live. Organisations can help you get into school.
You can contact RESF (Réseau éducation sans frontières, “education without borders network”) in your region for help with schooling: http://www.educationsansfrontieres.org/spip.php?article6084
What happens when a minor reaches 18?
If you are recognised as a minor and you reach the age of majority, you will have to start the procedure to apply for a residence permit. You stand a good chance of obtaining one if you are well integrated into French society, particularly through things like training programmes and school. It is important to seek advice from an organisation specialised in immigration law.