Country of Origin Information experts have achieved the years of academic and practical experience about a particular country that qualifies their COI information to provide supporting objective evidence on an individual claim for refugee status. Most of the Country of Origin Information experts listed below have agreed to work pro bono for those non-governmental organizations (NGOs) which do not charge refugees for legal services and no funds for this purpose; other have said they work for a very reduced fee. Others do charge and we have tried to indicate this when this information was provided.
All of the recommended COI specialists we have listed have filed their curriculum vitae with us and have agreed to work on cases with legal advisers on a confidential basis. However, the Rights in Exile Programme cannot assume responsibility for the quality of their work.
Please see the training document on "Researching Country of Origin Information" that could be useful to those academics having little experience in writing declarations on behalf of asylum seekers. It includes all the relevant refugee laws for those of you who may need background on the 1951 Convention and other legal matters pertinent to refugees. There are also links to declarations or expert opinions published by various organisations that you can easily access. You can find the document and download it as a pdf file here.
Lawyers representing refugee claims should first write about the case to the persons listed on the country pages to ensure their expertise is relevant to your case and to give them time and sufficient information about a case for them to agree with you on their working arrangements. We do not have COI specialists for all countries. Should you be willing to be a COI specialist, please contact infofahamu [dot] org, Subject Line: 'COI offered'.
There are other data bases of COI experts and sources of advice on writing such expert reports.
The ‘Expert Country Evidence in Asylum and Immigration Cases in the United Kingdom: Best Practice Guide’ provides advice on how to write effective reports that meet the expert witness’s obligations. It outlines the process of writing the report and the expert’s role, explains how to meet the expectations and requirements of the legal process in order to best assist the Court or Tribunal, lists some common dos and don’ts, discusses the structure and format of an expert report, and touches on the topics of oral evidence and fees. While designed for COI experts in the UK, we believe all would benefit.
The European Country of Origin Information network provides Country of Origin Information for all the main countries from which refugees originate. Whilst it does not offer the specialised expertise required in individual cases, it gives solid background information and is a useful starting point.
For your interest, we note that the European Asylum Support Office, Malta, has now produced ‘Common EU guidelines for processing Country of Origin Information (COI)’ . The methodology is split into five sections: Standards, Initiation, Research, Report, and Finalisation and follow-up. In addition, it includes two annexes: Glossary and EASO COI report template. 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.
Amnesty International: Annual Report 2012
Amnesty International is a global movement of more than 3 million supporters, members and activists in more than 150 countries and territories who campaign to end grave abuses of human rights. Our vision is for every person to enjoy all the rights enshrined in the Universal Declaration of Human Rights and other international human rights standards. We are independent of any government, political ideology, economic interest or religion and are funded mainly by our membership and public donations.
The report contains updated country information and reveals that failed leadership has gone global in 2011. What emerged during a year of unrest, transition and conflict was the singular failure of leadership at the national and international level. Officials of repressive governments who dismiss the concept of the universality of human rights and argue that human rights are western values being imposed on them have had their arguments laid bare. Leaders must understand the imperative to build and maintain a system that protects the powerless and restrains the powerful.
Asylum Research Consultancy (ARC)
Email: infoasylumresearchconsultancy [dot] com
Contact Persons: Liz Williams, Stephanie Huber
ARC also undertakes research, advocacy and training to improve the quality of refugee status determination. ARC has been commissioned by the UK-based Still Human Still Here Coalition to twice review the COI content of 11 Operational Guidance Notes (OGNs) during 2011 and 2012 and delivered 10 training sessions to legal representatives on ‘How to Challenge the Conclusions Reached in UKBA's OGNs Using Country of Origin Information’. ARC was also appointed to review the COI content of the UKBA COI Report on The Gambia on behalf of the Independent Advisory Group on Country Information (IAGCI). ARC also produces a free bi-monthly COI Update, which provides notification of new UK Country Guidance cases, new UKBA COI publications and developments.
Austrian Centre for Country of Origin and Asylum Research and Documentation – Austrian Red Cross
ACCORD provides independently, neutrally and objectively researched information on countries of origin of asylumseekers. The use of a comprehensive selection of sources ensures balanced and corroborated information. ACCORD continuously document human rights developments focusing on the criteria of the 1951 Geneva Refugee Convention and other legal instruments providing international protection. Their database is thus a focal point for asylum relevant and up-to-date material. ACCORD offers responses to case related queries, www.ecoi.net and a COI training manual.
Center for Gender & Refugee Studies (CGRS)
200 McAllister Street
San Francisco, CA 94102
Tel: (415) 581-8836
Fax: (415) 581-8824
The Center for Gender & Refugee Studies (CGRS) has resources for women seeking asylum on account of domestic violence, including country conditions information on DV in Honduras and an expert declaration on DV in Honduras. If you would like to receive a copy of this information, please fill out a request for information on our website and we will respond shortly.
We provide all resources at no cost.
We have country conditions information and advisory materials for a number of other countries and topics, especially information regarding gender-based violence, persecution of LGBT individuals, and children.
We cover anywhere and everywhere, although our resources regarding domestic violence and violence against women in Mexico and Central America are the most extensive.
We have information packets for over 100 countries and with 4-6 weeks’ notice are happy to produce new packets for specific cases concerning gender, LGBT, or children’s issues. In addition to those packets, we have general expert declarations regarding DV in Mexico, violence against indigenous women in Mexico, DV in Guatemala, DV in Honduras, DV in El Salvador, violence against women generally in El Salvador, one on FGC generally, and one on incest.
If you have a case for which you are in need of assistance, please feel free to submit a request at the above URL and we will share with you anything that may be of help.
The COI Forum is a free online tool for all COI researchers and users of COI working in refugee status determination to share publications and ideas on COI research and sources, to post any COI (research) related questions for other members to answer, as well as to develop shared resources. The COI Forum is moderated by Asylum Research Consultancy (ARC) and the Dutch Council for Refugees with support from Still Human Still Here. It is part of the ecoi.net community platform. The COI Forum is open to all organisations and individuals, subject to approval by the COI Forum moderators, but is a confidential private discussion group only for the use of its members. To find out more about the governance of the COI Forum and to register please follow the simple steps explained here:
Registration is free.
Electronic Immigration Network
The Electronic Immigration Network [EIN] provides information on UK immigration and refugee law. The site comprises of two main areas: the Public Site (free) and the Members’ Site (at a charge). The Public Site gives access to country of origin experts, news and information on the latest legislation and most recent case law, event listings and a general resources list which links to related sites.
The directory of Country of Origin Experts is available here: http://www.ein.org.uk/experts/country.shtml. It is accessible to all. However, we have no way of knowing if these listed experts are willing to do this work without charge. You should contact them directly and explain your situation where you are unable to pay.
The Members’ Site (fee-paying) contains case law, legislation, updates on policy
and practice, information on events, job information and bulletin boards that enable users to consult with and contact fellow practitioners. A forum allows access to immigration and asylum-related decisions from the AIT up to the European Court of Human Rights in Strasbourg.
Human Rights Watch
Human Rights Watch is a nonprofit, nongovernmental human rights organization made up of more than 280 staff members around the globe. Its staff consists of human rights professionals including country experts, lawyers, journalists, and academics of diverse backgrounds and nationalities.
Established in 1978, Human Rights Watch is known for its accurate fact-finding, impartial reporting, effective use of media, and targeted advocacy, often in partnership with local human rights groups. Each year, Human Rights Watch publishes more than 100 reports and briefings on human rights conditions in some 90 countries, generating extensive coverage in local and international media.
Its publications include country reports, as well as an annual World Reports. Annual World Report summarize human rights conditions in more than 90 countries and territories worldwide in each year. To view the 2014 HRW report click here.
Human Rights Watch Reports on country conditions are persuasive. To sign up for the Newsletter, please click here to receive regular updates. HRW has offices in: New York, Amsterdam, Beirut, Berlin, Brussels, Chicago, Geneva, Johannesburg, London, Los Angeles, Nairobi, Paris, San Francisco, Sydney, Tokyo, Toronto, Washington D.C. and Zürich.
International Crisis Group
The International Crisis Group is an independent, non-profit, non-governmental organisation committed to preventing and resolving deadly conflict. They provide regular and reliable updates and reports on countries in conflict situations. It is also available in French and in Arabic and some reports are available in other languages.
RefWorld is the leading source of information necessary for taking quality decisions on refugee status. Refworld contains a vast collection of reports relating to situations in countries of origin, policy documents and positions, and documents relating to international and national legal frameworks. The information has been carefully selected and compiled from UNHCR's global network of field offices, Governments, international, regional and non-governmental organizations, academic institutions and judicial bodies.
Still Human Still Here
Still Human Still Here is a broad coalition of organisations that are campaigning together to bring to an end the destitution of refused asylum seekers in the UK by improving the quality of the decision making process, extending asylum support and healthcare until the time of departure from the UK or their grant of leave to remain and granting asylum seekers permission to work if their cases have not been resolved in six months or if they have been refused but cannot be returned through no fault of their own.
The resource section contains the latest briefings and reports from the asylum sector including commentaries on UKBA COI Operational Guidance Notes. These commentaries aim to be a tool to allow legal representatives to identify relevant country of origin information and point to potential inaccuracies and inconsistencies in the use of country of origin information and case law in the OGNs.
The European Country of Origin Information Network
The European Country of Origin Information Network collects information on the situation in countries of origin of asylum seekers with a focus on the needs of asylum lawyers, refugee counsels and persons deciding on claims for asylum and other forms of international protection. Since February 2008, the search engine on ecoi.net automatically includes English and German synonyms and near synonyms of search terms.
Le site www.ecoi.net du Réseau européen d’information sur les pays d’origine, a une nouvelle interface de recherche.
El sitio www.ecoi.net de la Red europea de informaciones sobre los países de originen, a un novel interface de búsqueda.
The Immigration and Refugee Board of Canada
The IRB has a wealth of material on their website on all manner of things dealing with their work, including Research and Country of Origin Information. At present, they are redesigning their online research applications but eventually these will be freely available to all. They have a number of offices accross Canada and can be contacted infoirb-cisr [dot] gc [dot] ca (via Email).
UK Border Agency’s Country of Origin Information Service
The Country of Origin Information Service (COI Service) provides up-to-date, sourced, independently reviewed information on asylum seekers' countries of origin. Sources include UN reports, human rights reports, various media bodies and information from specialist country officers, amongst others. COI material produced by UKBA is reviewed by the independent Advisory Group on Country Information (IAGCI). If you have any comments or suggestions on any COI Service products, you can send them to:UKBApublicenquiries[at]ukba.gsi.gov.uk.
Do consult Asylum Research Consultancy ( www.asylumresearchconsultancy.com ) for critiques of UK Border Agency's COI report and beware, UK Border Agency's report often are out-of-date as are many such sources.
US Country Reports on Human Rights Practices for 2013 (US Department of State)
http://www.state.gov/j/drl/rls/hrrpt/humanrightsreport/#wrapper (When the page loads go to pull down menu 'Countries/Regions' and select a country)
The Country Reports on Human Rights Practices highlight the continued pursuit of "free and equal dignity in human rights" in every corner of the world. Based on factual reporting from our embassies and posts abroad, these Congressionally mandated reports chronicle human rights conditions in almost 200 countries and territories. The reports draw attention to the growing challenges facing individuals and organizations as governments around the world fall short of their obligation to uphold universal human rights.
The 2010 Report can be found here.