“Immigration is one of the biggest political challenges now and in the near future, because it will not stop. We must be clear: this challenge, which creates a moral and political crisis for Europe, is the result of an African crisis. And this crisis is first and foremost due to the inadequate security context. These migrants, these exiles, arrive through traffickers. The emotions they give rise to in Europe sometimes make us forget the terrible organized crime going on in the background.” (Emmanuel Macron, Lagos, 4 July 2018)

The issue of African migration concerns not only France, but Europe as a whole. France and its European partners have launched several initiatives to help people trapped in Libya and fight human trafficking networks, working closely with the African Union and the International Organization for Migration. The French Office for the Protection of Refugees and Stateless Persons (OFPRA), in coordination with the UN Refugee Agency, has carried out operations in Niger and Chad to identify and protect African refugees in France.

However, migration also includes requests for France to issue visas, which have grown in number in recent years.

France’s largest source of asylum seekers

Africans filed 38,026 of 100,755 asylum requests in France in 2017, making the continent the top source of asylum seekers. According to OFPRA data for 2017, African asylum seekers mainly came from Sudan, Guinea, Côte d’Ivoire, the Democratic Republic of the Congo and Mali.

In 2017, 9,410 African asylum seekers were granted protection by OFPRA, out of a total of 23,958 requests. Refugees from the Democratic Republic of the Congo represent France’s second-largest refugee population, behind refugees from Sri Lanka.

Immigration and visas

Visa issues are often seen as a barrier preventing people from studying, improving themselves, starting businesses or using their talents in France, before reinvesting and becoming driving forces in their countries of origin. According to data on the various visa categories (tourism, study, family reunification and work), this is not the case.

  • French visa applications are growing at a steady pace, which is on a par with global demand (2018: +8.5%; world: +7.1%).
  • This figure is comparable to that for Asian countries. Five States account for 51% of demand: Côte d’Ivoire (56,575 or +9%), Senegal (54,724 or +10%), South Africa (38,006 or +9%), Nigeria (34,239 or +15%) and Cameroon (25,077 ).
  • The issuance rate has also remained stable: 73.67% of applications are approved.

Student visas

The high number of long-stay student visas issued to African students reflects their presence in France. In 2017, almost half of France’s 323,933 foreign students were from Africa (44.8%). Some 20.6% were from sub-Saharan Africa, where the number of students studying in France has grown significantly since 2011, jumping by 64.7% in Côte d’Ivoire and 34% in the Congo.

Since 2011, the number of long-stay student visas issued for Africa has been higher than for any other geographic area: they currently represent 75.28% of the visas issued. Student distribution is similar to that for other geographic areas: 78.5% of students enrol in universities, 5.6% in management or business schools, 4.9% in engineering schools (other than universities) and 11% in other types of establishments.

Read the press file regarding foreign students (in French)

Special initiatives have been launched to allow African students with French university diplomas to travel between their countries of origin and France on a long-term basis. A new initiative offered by France Alumni makes it possible to register diplomas online, meaning that African students’ visa requests can be processed more quickly.

A talent passport will also facilitate the movement of up-and-coming graduates, giving them the opportunity to make use of their knowledge in France, before making it available to their countries of origin. Find out more about the talent passport.

Other visa categories

According to OFPRA data, four of the top ten countries in terms of family reunification applications are located in sub-Saharan Africa, although actual request numbers remain relatively low. These countries are: Côte d’Ivoire (687 requests or 3.7% in total), Cameroon (667, 3.7%), Senegal (519, 2.8%) and Mali (372, 2%). Concerning long-stay visas, two of the top ten countries in terms of visa numbers are African. They are: Senegal (4,661 long-stay visas issued in 2017) and Côte d’Ivoire (2,803 long-stay visas issued in 2017).

Republican integration contracts, which must be signed by foreigners wishing to reside in France on a long-term basis, mainly concern three countries in sub-Saharan Africa: Senegal, Côte d’Ivoire and the Democratic Republic of the Congo. Nationals of each of these countries signed between 2,500 and 2,700 contracts in 2017.

Read the OFII’s 2017 report (in French)

The fight against migrant trafficking

In accordance with commitments made at the summit in Paris on 28 August 2017, France is determined to work with its European and African partners to fight all forms of migrant trafficking and dismantle traffickers’ business models.

For this reason, in its dialogue with Libya in particular, it promotes an inclusive political solution that is supported by a unified army and placed under the authority of civil society, building on the La Celle-Saint-Cloud meeting of 25 July 2017 and working with the European Union and regional partners.

In addition to fighting trafficking networks and assisting migrants caught up in these webs, France intends to help fight trafficking through development assistance, job creation through entrepreneurship and support for education, higher education and research in Africa.

Updated: February 2019