The first COI report produced by the European Asylum Support Office (EASO) has been published. It focuses on Taliban recruitment strategies in Afghanistan. Along with the report, the EASO also published its methodology for COI reports.
From the press release:
“The availability of and the expertise on COI is one of the cornerstones of decision-making in the asylum process and as such can enhance harmonisation. The continuous support in the field of COI is an important tool in achieving a Common European Asylum System. The purpose of this report is to provide information supporting COI Experts, Decision and Policy Makers active in the Refugee Status Determination Procedures. EASO also published a report on COI Report Methodology. The COI Report Methodology sets standards and guidelines for writing COI reports.
EASO chose Afghanistan for its first COI report in view of its history of conflicts, the large number of afghan asylum seekers in the EU, and the differences in the first instance negative decision rates for Afghan asylum seekers in the EU Member States. In fact, in 2011, Afghanistan was the top country of origin for asylum seekers in the European Union. Out of a total of 303.100 asylum applicants 28,000 or nine percent of the total number of applicants, were from Afghanistan. First instance negative decision rates for Afghan asylum seekers varied across the EU. In the context of a Common European Asylum System, the discrepancies between national asylum systems can be estimated by a standard deviance of approximately 28%.
The fear of recruitment by Taliban or other insurgent groups is still an important asylum motive in the European caseload of Afghan asylum applications. In discussions with caseworkers in various Member States, different aspects of recruitment have been mentioned as core elements of asylum claims. Among the topics discussed were the madrassas (religious schools), night letters, suicide bombers, minors, kidnappings, training camps, handicapped persons, family members, insurgent groups, Pakistan, returnees, mullahs, mosques, ethnicity, locations, coercion and so on.” (EASO press release, 10 July 2012)
The report also contains a brief historical overview on the Afghan conflict.
From the methodology’s introduction:
“At the Task Force meeting in Malta in October 2011 a working party (WP) was mandated to draft a methodology on the EASO COI report, including standards and handbook. The EASO COI report methodology has been developed by this working party with the participation of EASO and the representatives of Country of Origin Information units working for the following immigration authorities:
Staatendokumentation, Bundesasylamt — Austria (Chair)
Dokumentations- og Projektkontoret, Udlændingestyrelsen — Denmark
Lifos, Migrationsverket — Sweden
COI Service, UK Border Agency, Home Office — United Kingdom
The outcome of the working party has been discussed by a Reference Group chaired by the Heads of the COI units of France and Finland and composed of representatives from various Member States, UNHCR and the Commission. [...]
The EASO COI report methodology is based on the ‘Common EU guidelines for processing Country of Origin Information (COI)’ as well as on the ‘EU common guidelines for (joint) fact finding missions’. [...]
This methodology is a public document and was developed for the purpose of EASO COI reports. However, all Member States are encouraged to use this methodology for their own COI reports. In the process of drafting EASO COI reports the use of this methodology is binding.” (EASO: COI report methodology, July 2012, p.5)
UNHCR, member of the EASO reference groups for both the report and the methodology, issued a statement following the report’s publication, dealing with EASO’s definition of “forced recruitment” and with the lack of information available for certain regions in Afghanistan.
You can read all documents by following these links:
EASO: Afghanistan: Taliban Strategies – Recruitment, 10 July 2012
EASO: Country of Origin Information report methodology, 10 July 2012
UNHCR: Forced Recruitment by the Taliban in Afghanistan – UNHCR’s perspective, 10 July 2012
Update: also see opinion of Amnesty International on the EASO definition of forced recruitment and its conclusions: http://www.amnesty.eu/content/assets/EASO_COI_Report_.pdf
Update 2: the report and the methodology are now available in several EU languages on EASO’s website: http://easo.europa.eu/news/easo-publication/
Update 3: Asylum Research Consultancy and the Dutch Council for Refugees published a commentary on the EASO COI report methodology: Asylum Research Consultancy & Dutch Council for Refugees: Comments on the EASO COI report methodology, November 2012