Advisory report 'Information and Assessment'
This advisory report answers the question how other public sources than the Official Country Reports of the Dutch Ministry of Foreign Affairs can best be used in the asylum procedure. The Advisory Committee on Migration Affairs (ACVZ) concludes on the basis of an extensive research that country of origin information should be collected, used and published in a more systematic manner than is currently the case.
Request for advice by Minister for Migration
The Minister for Migration has asked the ACVZ for advise on how the Immigration and Naturalisation Service (IND) can best make use of other sources of COI, in the absence of an Official Country Report (COI). COI is information on the general and human rights situation in the country of origin of asylum seekers. This information is needed for a good assessment by the IND of asylum requests, for the asylum seeker to understand why his or her application has been granted or rejected and for the judge to assess the appeal. The IND mostly uses the Official Country Reports of the ministry of Foreign Affairs for this purpose, in which the general and human rights situation in counties of origin is described. However, not for all countries (current) Official Country Reports are available. This raises the question how to deal with this.
Outcome of research: Dutch Immigration and Naturalisation Service (IND) does not operate in a transparent manner
The research shows that, when there are no (current) Official Country Reports available, the IND uses many other sources: of other governments, Ngo’s, news reports and websites. In doing so the IND usually pays attention to the relevance and topicality of the sources, but the use of sources is rather random. The research also shows that references are sometimes inaccurate, that the IND does not operate in a transparent manner and that the sources were often not or not easy traceable by the other parties involved. Furthermore, caseworkers, lawyers and judges seldom explicitly test sources for reliability.
Main recommendations: consistent and traceable references to COI in asylum decisions and European cooperation improve quality
The ACVZ’s recommendations are focused on more meticulous and consistent ways to collect, use and publish sources of COI. First of all, The IND should itself collect and publish COI more systematically and transparent than at present. An assessment by an external panel can help guarantee the quality of COI reports and increase the level of support. If a decision is based on COI, this should be substantiated in an accurate, transparent and traceable manner. Country of origin policy should be published. According to the ACVZ, further investment in European cooperation clearly contributes to an improved and common use of COI within the EU.
Response of the Dutch government
On the 2nd of July 2020, the Dutch government responded to the advisory report. The government expresses its gratitude for the advice and the recommendations and expects that the advice can contribute to a better and more transparent use of COI in asylum cases.
The government will follow up on the recommendation to publish the COI that is collected by the IND’s Country and Language Research and Expertise Team (TOELT), but not on the recommendation to have the TOELT collection assessed by an external panel. The government will also follow up on the recommendation to develop ways to substantiate COI in an accurate, transparent and traceable manner in a decision. The government sees the recommendation to further invest in European cooperation as a confirmation of the path it has already chosen.