The UK Border Agency needs to adopt a consistent approach to the use of country of origin information (COI) as it plays a vital role in establishing if an asylum claim is well founded, said John Vine CBE QPM, the Independent Chief Inspector of the UK Border Agency, publishing his thematic inspection report on how the Agency uses COI in deciding asylum applications.
The inspection took place between October 2010 and May 2011 and looked at how COI affected decisions to grant or refuse asylum.
At the time of inspection, the Chief Inspector found evidence that case owners were familiar with, and used, sources such as COI reports which were available for the countries from where most asylum applications in the UK were made.
However, the Chief Inspector was concerned to find that:
- 17% of decisions demonstrated a selective use of COI or contained assertions which the full range of country information did not support;
- COI was also included selectively in statements of policy with the risk that case owners could make decisions without taking into account all available evidence;
- there was no consistent coordination of the various COI documents produced by the Agency; and
- in the absence of a COI report, case owners operated very different approaches to researching COI and there was no mechanism to pool obtained knowledge.
"Making the decision whether to grant or refuse a claim for asylum or humanitarian protection is one of the most challenging and sensitive issues faced by the UK Border Agency. Country of origin information (COI) is researched by the Agency and plays a vital part in ensuring that decision makers are equipped with the most up-to-date and accurate information about conditions in other countries to enable them to establish whether an individual asylum claim is well founded."
"I found evidence that COI had been used selectively or otherwise inappropriately in decision making. In addition, I found inconsistencies in the way case owners obtained information in the absence of a COI report and how COI was referenced in decision letters to asylum applicants."
"While it will not be feasible to capture every type of situation for every group in every country, there are three potential consequences for a lack of COI: inefficiency, inconsistency and incorrect assumptions.”
- The use of country of origin information in deciding asylum applications: A thematic inspection [PDF]