Structural Differences and Access to COI at European Courts Dealing with Asylum

As a result of the ERF-funded project “COI in Judicial Practice”, in which the Austrian Red Cross/ACCORD participated, the Hungarian Helsinki Committee has published a study on structural differences between European courts dealing with asylum and their access to Country of Origin Information (COI).

A significant part of asylum claims in the EU are decided upon in judicial review procedures and a large number of protection statuses are granted by courts every year. Yet, common EU regulation on asylum hardly puts forward any specific rule regarding this stage of the asylum proceedings, and relevant procedural frameworks are largely divergent in different member states. Country information (COI) is widely considered as determinant evidence in most asylum cases, but national courts’ practices relating to the access to COI and its judicial interpretation are also divergent. The present study – as a pioneering initiative – summarises the main findings of a mapping exercise focusing on these two issues and covering all EU member states and Switzerland. The scope of the research has been limited to in-merit asylum procedures.

Judicial structures that review administrative asylum decisions vary from one member state to another in terms of the number of judicial review instances, centralisation, specialisation, the scope of jurisdiction and rules that govern the procedure.

The judiciary currently employs a wide range of practices to obtain COI, and there is no majority (let alone common) approach towards this issue. Judges in some jurisdictions obtain country information themselves (from the court’s own COI service, the administrative asylum authority, an independent state-funded COI service, professional nongovernmental COI providers or other sources) while in others they use only the COI provided by the parties.

The paper, written by Gábor Gyulai and Tudor Roşu, recommends:

  • The specialisation of judges and courts dealing with asylum is recommendable.
  • It is advised that judges dealing with asylum also participate in COI-specific training (tailor-made to their specific needs) and that COI researchers get trained on refugee law.
  • If having only limited resources, it is recommended to courts to allocate these resources to an individual COI query response service, rather than to the production of more general country, thematic or periodical reports.
  • Courts dealing with a significant number of asylum cases are recommended to establish a trained and well-resourced COI service or to build a cooperation scheme with a professional independent COI-provider.
  • It is recommended that COI research is performed by professional researchers having the necessary language skills and that COI services providing information to judges should have sufficient capacities and resources for translation.
  • Courts are encouraged to share with the parties all COI documents considered in the judicial review of asylum decisions (including those produced by the court itself) and allocate sufficient time for the parties to react to them.

You can download the paper (PDF) in three languages:

The mapping paper has been prepared in the framework of the “COI in judicial practice” project – a project of the Hungarian Helsinki Committee, funded by the European Refugee Fund Community Actions, in cooperation with the UNHCR Regional Representation for Central Europe, the IARLJ, the French National Asylum Court (CNDA), the Austrian Red Cross/ACCORD, the Refugee Documentation Centre Ireland and the Czech Judicial Academy. The primary goal of the project was to enhance dialogue regarding evidence assessment (with particular emphasis on country information) within the European judiciary, as well as between refugee law judges and other main actors. The project intended to promote a protection-oriented harmonisation of asylum decision-making practices, based on high quality standards and effectiveness.

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