A girl I know, from a proud and old but non-European country, has been trying to deal with the French bureaucracy for many months. She is in France legally, to study, but has had to jump through innumerable hoops just to get the most basic papers.
Last week, this girl literally had to spend the night outside the infamous prefecture of Antony with a friend to keep her place in line and be seen the next day by a snippy, incompetent bureaucrat, one of only a few lucky souls (60, while hundreds wait for days) who got an appointment with a human being before the offices again closed.
This is not only not unusual but happens every night of the week, even though all that would need to be done is to post online a list of the required documents and a downloadable form. Instead, the only online information says, "For any information, telephone or go directly to the sub-prefecture." The telephone, of course, is hopeless; no one ever, ever answers it. And if you go to the office, you discover, as my friend did, that even getting there at dawn will not get you a place to be seen that same day. No, it's spend the night outside the cold, gray concrete building, without even a roof over the line of helpless foreigners, or not get your papers to stay in France.
All this to get four pieces of paper which could easily be put at people's disposal in the lobby and mailed in.
She and her friend began their long night at 8 p.m., bringing along a thermos and a sleeping bag apiece. For a while, they kept up a cheerful face, reporting on Facebook. But around midnight, as it started to rain, the cheery words disappeared and a photo of feet in a wet sleeping bag, next to a dirty concrete wall, went up.
I invite you, as the French say, to visit the website of this outpost of immigration bureaucracy. Looks nice at first glance, doesn't it? But go a little further, say to the FAQ, and you start to see what is wrong. In case the sous-préfecture of Antony actually does something about its service in some distant future time, here is a screenshot.
Administration de la honte! Or "administration of shame," as we would say in English.