The Expert Workshop dedicated to the country of origin information (COI) in refugee status determination (RSD) process, organised within the framework of the Eastern Partnership Panel on Migration and Asylum, was held in Bucharest, Romania. Participants from Armenia, Azerbaijan, Belarus, Georgia and Moldova and 9 EU Member States, EASO, ECHR, Dutch Council for Refugees as well as UNHCR, IOM and ICMPD attended the meeting. The workshop was co-organized by Romania, Armenia and European Commission with the thematic focus on country of origin information (COI) in RSD process in the EU MS and EaP countries in order to look at the sources of COI and to identify gaps and best practices in the area.
The first day started with welcome addresses and opening remarks (EC, Romania, Armenia, UNHCR and Swedish Migration Board (SMB)). Basic principles of COI were discussed during the first session of the workshop starting with UNHCR’s presentation on the role and importance of COI in RSDfollowed by presentations on COI standards of European Court of Human Rights (ECHR) in assessment of claims for international protection(ECHR) and on general COI standards (Switzerland). Later on representatives of the EaP countries (Armenia, Azerbaijan, Belarus, Georgia and Moldova) informed on the nationals COI units / systems describing recent developments and major challenges in the sphere of COI.
The second session began with group discussions based on the questionnaires sent out before the meeting. Three working groups examined 1)procedural COI standards, 2) COI units and internal workflow and 3) collaboration between COI units and then revealed results of the discussion to all participants. The session continued with presentation on COI process and staff management (Romania) and closed with COI quality and assurance checking presentation by Sweden. The session gave an opportunity to look at the COI units functioning in different countries in a comparative perspective.
The second day of the workshop was dedicated to the partial aspects in dealing with COI and started with EASO presentation on COI EU Common Portal and report methodology. Legal relevance and COI as evidence in RSD were the topics of subsequent presentation by Germany which illustrated practical use of COI at the courts. Georgia reported on practical challenges in dealing with COI in decision making process. The training opportunities offered by the COI module within the European Asylum Curriculum (EAC) were described by Romania, while the Dutch Council for Refugees presented the role of civil society in the field of COI.
The session went further with individual countries’ presentations illustrating best COI practices in EU and third countries, as follows: Czech Republic explained the role of COI in the national asylum procedure, Romania introduced COI public portal available on the internet, Sweden explained how language analysis can be used as a COI tool, Germany presented on European Country of Origin Sponsorship (ECS) as an example of good practical cooperation at European level, Switzerland shared best practices regarding joint fact finding missions (FFM).
The second day was finalized by Romania providing summary of the sessions and the workshop as a whole, and anticipating creation of COI units in all countries. The workshop was closed by EC wishing smooth implementation of the best practices and ideas discussed.