About 200 agents of the French Office for the Protection of Refugees and Stateless Persons (OFPRA) went on strike and staged a sit-in, in protest against the policy of intensifying exploitation pursued by French ministries and forcing them to quickly decide on asylum applications in a short time.
On Thursday, October 26, the employees staged a sit-in in front of the office’s headquarters in the Val-de-Marne area, and announced a one-day strike with the support of the unions, especially The General Confederation of Labour (CGT).
Agents charged with processing asylum applications and making decisions related to the applications, before sending them to those responsible, said that working conditions had begun to deteriorate in recent years, according to the “InfoMigrants” website.
Through their sit-in, employees seek to get rid of the pressures they are exposed to during their work, which often leads them to make decisions quickly, instead of checking everything they have carefully.
The contract concluded between the French Office for the Protection of Refugees and Stateless Persons (OFPRA) and the ministries, especially the Interior, stipulates that the office’s employees issue 364 asylum decisions every year. This is “the only criterion for evaluating the work of employees,” according to a statement by the Federation of Trade Unions.
But trade unionist Anouk Lerais believes that this is “not fair” for employees and asylum seekers alike, as “every employee must take enough time to review and verify the reports to make a fair decision.”
Trade unionist Lerais also criticized the resources allocated to the office, pointing out that the “numbers” policy does not match employees’ salaries.
Moreover, the employees’ task has become more difficult and complex with time, especially with the adoption of new laws and procedures related to the immigration file, which increase the difficulty and requirements of the work, as they are forced, in addition to their work, to become “investigators are charged with detecting individuals who may pose a threat to public order,” according to the unions.
The pressure on civil servants causes many of them to be unable to continue working according to the unions’ statement, while the seniority of the office’s employees does not exceed two years.
The government committed on several occasions to address asylum files within six months, as part of the French President’s plan that he announced during his election campaign in 2017.
Although the authorities provided “200 additional jobs,” the unions believed that the matter had exhausted departments at the expense of others, such as human resources and the department responsible for issuing civil certificates to refugees.
The unions also pointed out that the department responsible for issuing civil documents forces refugees to wait months and sometimes years to obtain their necessary documents to complete their administrative tasks and integrate into France.