France has no specific guardianship system for unaccompanied minors. Leaving aside the situation of the so-called “zone d’attente”, where an ad hoc administrator must be appointed as soon as an unaccompanied minor arrives, unaccompanied minors do not immediately get a legal guardian when arriving on the French territory. They first go through an age assessment procedure and during this first step they do not have a legal guardian. Once recognized as unaccompanied minors after the age assessment procedure, they are protected by the territorial childhood protection services (which take care of all minors in danger, including unaccompanied minors) and go to a children’s home or a foster family. Unaccompanied minors are mainly accommodated in children’s homes. Once protected by the childhood protection service, unaccompanied minors still need a guardian, since the childhood protection service does not automatically become their guardian.
The juvenile court judge, the Prosecutor’s office or the childhood protection service, has to refer the case to the guardianship judge. When the minor has no family in France, the judge assigns guardianship to the territorial childhood protection services to which the unaccompanied minor has been entrusted.
In practice, it happens very often that either the judge is not informed about the situation, or as a result of backlogged courts, no guardian is appointed because the procedure requires a very long time. Therefore, in many cases, minors remain without legal representation for several months, even until coming of age. Though established by law, the procedure for the appointment of a legal representative can therefore fluctuate in its implementation relative to the specific case of unaccompanied minors.
There is an attempt, that aims to overcome the absence of a legal representative, but only for the asylum application. In practice, if an unaccompanied minor wants to ask for asylum and does not have a legal guardian, an “ad hoc administrator” will be appointed. This legal representative has a limited role. He/she only helps the minor during the asylum procedure. His/her appointment does not resolve the broader problem of the lack of a general guardian, competent for all aspects of the child’s life (source: France Terre D’Asile).