Source description last updated: 8 August 2019
In brief: The Country Policy and Information Team publishes country information and policy guidance and is part of the department of the UK Home Office which is responsible for asylum and human rights.
Coverage on ecoi.net:
Country Policy and Information Notes are covered weekly on ecoi.net, for countries of priorities A-E.
According to Article 339JA of the Immigration Rules, “[r]eliable and up-to-date information shall be obtained from various sources as to the general situation prevailing in the countries of origin of applicants for asylum and, where necessary, in countries through which they have transited. Such information shall be made available to the personnel responsible for examining applications and taking decisions and may be provided to them in the form of a consolidated country information report.” (Government of the United Kingdom: Immigration Rules part 11: asylum, 15 January 2018)
“The Home Office’s Country Policy and Information Team (CPIT) undertakes COI research and provides guidance/policy advice for officials involved in the asylum decision making process.” (European Commission, European Migration Network: Ad-hoc query on searching of COI for asylum procedures, 22 September 2014, p. 14)
CPIT “[p]rovides information on the 20-30 countries that generate the most asylum claims in the UK. However, CPIT may also produce COI on other countries where there is a specific operational need, such as whether a particular country is designated under our Non-Suspensive Appeals process (i.e. for ‘safe’ countries where applicants’ claims may only have a right of appeal outside of the UK) or claims processed through the UK’s detained fast track process.”(European Commission, European Migration Network: Ad-hoc query on searching of COI for asylum procedures, 22 September 2014, p. 14)
Country policy and information notes “[…[ are used by UK Visas and Immigrations officials to make decisions in asylum and human rights applications.” (UK Home Office website: Visas and immigration operational guidance – collection - Country information and guidance, undated)
Budget outturn for UK Visas & Immigration projected at £ 334.905 million for 2016-17. For further information see: https://www.gov.uk/government/publications/home-office-annual-report-and-accounts-2016-to-2017
Scope of reporting:
Geographic focus: Countries which generate most asylum applications to the UK (currently 45 countries).
Thematic focus: Human rights, humanitarian and security situation in countries of origin of asylum seekers.
“Re-structuring at the Home Office has seen the merger of the Country of Origin Information Service (COIS), who were responsible for producing country information reports, and the Country Specific Litigation Team (CSLT) who were responsible for Operational Guidance Notes, to create the Country Policy and Information Team (CPIT).” (Independent Chief Inspector of Borders and Immigration and Independent Monitor for Entry Clearance Refusals without the Right of Appeal: Annual Report 2013-14, December 2014, p. 18)
“CPIT has introduced a new product, named a Country Information and Guidance (CIG) report which covers the most common issues / claims arising in UK casework, and provides both guidance on how to handle / decide the claims and COI. [...]
CIG reports will be updated on a needs basis, depending on the events in the country, changes in caselaw and requirements of decisions makers.” (European Commission, European Migration Network: Ad-hoc query on searching of COI for asylum procedures, 22 September 2014, p. 14)
“CIG renamed Country Policy and Information Note in response to the Upper Tribunal’s observations of the potential confusion arising between the courts’ and Home Office’s use of the term 'country guidance'.” (UK Home Office: Country Policy and Information Note Eritrea: National Service and Illegal Exit, October 2016, p. 95)
Whereas the Independent Chief Inspector, in his inspection of the Home Office’s production and use of COI published in January 2018, found that “Country Policy and Information Notes (CPINs) combine country information and ‘Policy’ […]”, to the effect of redirecting “decision makers towards a predetermined outcome, particularly where a significant body of asylum decision makers are inexperienced (as a parallel inspection of Asylum Intake and Casework found), unfamiliar with COI, have insufficient time to master every detail, and are likely to interpret ‘Policy’ as something they are required to follow”, the Home Office has rejected this point, “suggesting in its formal response that it sees this as interchangeable with ‘analysis’, ‘guidance’ or ‘country position’ […] The Home Office does however recognise that the term may be misinterpreted and commits to making it clear that that part of the CPIN ‘provides an analysis of the COI’.” (UK Home Office website: The Chief Inspector's report on Country of Origin Information has been published, 30 January 2018)
“CPIT managers and staff [see] themselves as a ‘policy team that does research’. However, only the CPIT Head of Unit and 2 Team Managers are trained in policy development and the unit’s processes are not compliant with established policy development processes within the Civil Service, such as including formal impact assessments.” (Independent Chief Inspector of Borders and Immigration: An inspection of the Home Office’s production and use of Country of Origin Information April – August 2017, 30 January 2018, p. 35
“At the time of the merger [of Country of Origin Information Service (COIS) and the Country Specific Litigation Team (CSLT)] and following an internal review, the new unit’s headcount was reduced by one third (8 posts). The number of Home Office staff and others who rely on COI, the volumes of asylum claims and appeals, their variety and complexity, and the weight placed on COI, make it hard to see this as anything other than aggressive cost-cutting. The cancellation of subscriptions to specialist research websites appears to have had the same aim. As a result, the Home Office has saved approximately £360,000 a year on this function, however there has been no tracking of any knock-on costs that may have fallen elsewhere.
CPIT’s size clearly affects its output. For its size, output is high. It looks to produce between 100 and 120 updated or new Country Policy and Information Notes (CPINs) a year and responds to around 1,000 requests from staff for specific information (Country of Origin Information Requests - COIRs), as well as fulfilling other functions, the demand for which senior management told inspectors was increasing.
Nonetheless, this is not enough to meet CPIT’s own target of updating all CPINs when or before they are 2 years old, nor does it meet customer demand, as evidenced by the extent of largely unsupervised (and unknown to CPIT) research carried out independently by decision makers, unable to find the answers they need in existing COI products.“ (Independent Chief Inspector of Borders and Immigration: An inspection of the Home Office’s production and use of Country of Origin Information April – August 2017, 30 January 2018, p. 7)
As far as methodologies applied in writing COI products are concerned, CPIT’s own manual “draws together parts of the EASO Methodology, ACCORD’s ‘Researching Country of Origin Information Manual (2013)’, the older Home Office Country of Origin Service (COIS) manual, and input from CPIT’s Head of Unit.” (Independent Chief Inspector of Borders and Immigration: An inspection of the Home Office’s production and use of Country of Origin Information April – August 2017, 30 January 2018, p. 42)
“The Country Officers often made use of online sources of country information, such as the Canadian Refugee Board, Refworld.org and ECOI.net. However, due to a combination of factors including the costs, they no longer had access to certain resources such as Reuters, Africa Confidential and (part of) allAfrica.com. CPIT has only one remaining subscription which it is considering renewing. Country Officers’ access to expert academic reports was also limited as these usually required a subscription.” (Independent Chief Inspector of Borders and Immigration: An inspection of the Home Office’s production and use of Country of Origin Information April – August 2017, 30 January 2018, p. 23)
“The ‘Country Information’ section of CPINs vary in length and topics covered. The average is between 10 and 20 pages, and the sub-sections cover such matters as ‘Legal rights’ or ‘Societal attitudes’. It takes the form of quotations and extracts from a range of sources, which in most cases are accompanied by a brief description of the source or a qualifying comment from CPIT on reliability of the source or corroboration for the information. There are hyperlinks that allow the reader to navigate the CPIN and access other relevant material. There is no analysis of the collected information or conclusion.” (Independent Chief Inspector of Borders and Immigration: An inspection of the Home Office’s production and use of Country of Origin Information April – August 2017, 30 January 2018, p. 36)
“CPIT told inspectors that it had a multi-layered quality assurance process that provided the necessary ‘checks and balances’ to ensure that it produced “robust, measured and balanced guidance and country information.”” (Independent Chief Inspector of Borders and Immigration: An inspection of the Home Office’s production and use of Country of Origin Information April – August 2017, 30 January 2018, p. 37)
“CPIT engages with a UK research consultancy to review the contents of draft CPINs. In doing so, it goes some way towards satisfying EASO guidelines which recommend that COI is subject to a “peer review” by “national” or “external experts” prior to publication.” (Independent Chief Inspector of Borders and Immigration: An inspection of the Home Office’s production and use of Country of Origin Information April – August 2017, 30 January 2018, p. 38)
For further information on the quality assurance process see the chapter on quality assurance of the report of the Independent Chief Inspector of Borders and Immigration on the inspection of the Home Office’s production and use of Country of Origin Information April – August 2017.
„The UK Borders Act 2007 Section 48 (2)(j) states that the [Independent] Chief Inspector [of Borders and Immigration] ‘shall consider and make recommendations about’ ... ‘the content of information about conditions in countries outside the United Kingdom which the Secretary of State compiles and makes available, for purposes connected with immigration and asylum, to immigration officers and other officials.‘
The Independent Advisory Group on Country Information (IAGCI) is a panel of experts and practitioners, created to assist the Chief Inspector in this task. The IAGCI commissions and quality assures reviews of country information produced by the Home Office’s Country Policy and Information Team (CPIT).“ (Independent Chief Inspector of Borders and Immigration: March 2017 Report, July 2017, p.2)
“The IAGCI reviews country of origin information products of the UK Home Office. The structure of these products have […] been revised, moving from separate COI Reports and Operational Guidance Notes (OGNs) to a single Country Information and Guidance (CIG) report. These products are generated on an ongoing basis for the top 20 asylum intake countries. CIG Reports commonly address a specific type of common asylum claim(s). They are compiled from material produced by a range of recognised external information sources (news sources, academic literature, country guidance decisions, independent research reports, fact finding reports from UK government or from other governments, etc.). These documents also contain Home Office policy on the recommended position to be taken with respect to various types of claims, based on the available and accepted country information.” (Independent Chief Inspector of Borders and Immigration website: Commissioning reviews – Syria Sept. 2015, undated)
A review commissioned by the IAGCI “aims to assess the Country Information in terms of its accuracy and balance, with the objective of ensuring that it offers an up-to-date and comprehensive summary of the most relevant available source material […], and relating to it the key issues raised in asylum claims […]. It does so by checking the citations in the report as well as the original documents from which they are drawn, by evaluating their continued relevance, and by identifying more recent, alternative, readily available sources that will usefully supplement the substantive content of the report.” (Morel, Michéle (Molieu ltd.): Review of the UK Home Office Country Information and Guidance – China: Christians (13 June 2014), April 2015, p. 3)
IAGCI’s reviews of Country Information and Guidance Reports (and the Home Office’s responses to them) can be accessed at: https://www.gov.uk/government/collections/inspection-review-country-information-and-guidance-reports
Language(s) of publications:
Website of Independent Chief Inspector of Border and Migration: Independent Advisory Group on Country Information:
The report by the Independent Chief Inspector of Borders and Immigration on Home Office’s production and use of Country of Origin Information from April to August 2017 and the response by the UK Home Office are available at https://www.gov.uk/government/publications/an-inspection-of-country-of-origin-information
From 2003 to 2005 the British NGO Immigration Advisory Service (IAS) (http://www.iasuk.org/) has undertaken four surveys on the UK Home Office’s Country Reports. The reports were checked for their accuracy, selectivity and objectivity (see IAS Website, http://www.iasuk.org/, accessed on 29 August 2008). Results of this reviewing process are available at http://www.iasuk.org/media/16854/cipu_analysis_report_2003.pdf and http://www.iasuk.org/media/16857/analysis_april_2004-full_pdf.pdf (accessed on 5 March 2010).
In reaction to the above mentioned discourse about the Home Office’s Country Reports the Advisory Panel on Country Information (APCI), an independent body under the Nationality Asylum and Immigration Act 2002 was established. The function of the Advisory Panel is to review and provide advice about the country of origin information material produced by the Home Office, to help ensure that it is as accurate, balanced, impartial, up to date and as user-friendly as possible. The members of the Advisory Panel are individuals and organisations operating in the country information and/or the refugee fields (APCI Website, http://www.apci.org.uk/, accessed on 29 August 2008).
In 2008, the APCI was disbanded and its functions subsumed under the Office of the Chief Inspector of the UKBA, who in March 2009 established the Independent Advisory Group on Country Information (IAGCI) to assist him with monitoring the UKBA Country of Origin Information Service (COIS) reports.
In March 2010, IAS published an analysis of the APCI's work and effects, available at: http://www.refworld.org/pdfid/4b90d9a12.pdf
All links accessed 8 August 2019 (unless otherwise indicated).