The Independent Advisory Group on Country Information invites tenders to evaluate the Home Office’s Country of Origin Information (COI) Reports and Operational Guidance Notes (OGNs) on India, Syria and Zimbabwe.

  1. The Independent Advisory Group on Country Information (IAGCI) is part of the Office of the Chief Inspector of Borders and Immigration. Its main purpose is to review the content of all Country of Origin Information (COI) produced by the UK Home Office to help ensure that it is as accurate, balanced, impartial and up to date as possible. COI is information used in procedures that assess claims of individuals to refugee status or other forms of international and humanitarian protection. It is also used in policy formulation. The full Terms of Reference for the IAGCI and minutes of earlier meetings are available on its website.
     
  2. The IAGCI focuses on particular COI Reports produced by the UK Home Office. COI Reports are produced at least twice a year on the top 20 asylum intake countries. They provide general background information about the issues most commonly raised in asylum claims made in the United Kingdom. They are compiled wholly from material produced by a range of recognised external information sources and do not contain any Home Office opinion or policy.
     
  3. IAGCI commissions country experts or experienced researchers to evaluate and report upon selected COI Reports. At its next meeting in January 2014, the IAGCI will consider the most recent COI Reports on India, Syria and Zimbabwe, and wishes to commission researchers to review these reports.
     
  4. COI Reports aim to provide an accurate, balanced and up to date summary of the key available source documents regarding the human rights situation in the country covered. The purpose and scope of the reports are clearly set out in an introductory section of the document. Reviews should evaluate the reports in this context and seek to identify any areas where they can be improved. Specifically the review will entail:
     
    (i) Assessing the extent to which information from source documents has been appropriately and accurately reflected in the COI Report.
     
    (ii) Identifying additional sources detailing the current human rights situation in the country.
     
    (iii) Noting and correcting any specific errors or omissions.
     
    (iv) Making recommendations for general improvements regarding, for example, the structure of the report, its coverage or its overall approach.
  5. IAGCI would like reviewers to also consider the Country of Origin Information contained in the Operational Guidance Notes for the countries under review. OGNs provide a brief summary of the general, political, and human rights situation in the country and describe common types of claim. They aim to provide clear guidance on whether the main types of claim are likely to justify the granting of asylum, humanitarian protection, or discretionary leave. OGNs combine COI and policy guidance. IAGCI is concerned only with the COI contained in these documents, and specifically requests reviewers to consider:
     
    (i) to what extent the OGN refers to the most up-to-date information produced by COI service or other publicly available COI, and
     
    (ii) to what extent the OGN gives an indication of the range of relevant country of origin information that should be considered.
     
  6. While there is room for individual discretion in the way the researcher approaches the task and prepares a review, it would be helpful for the IAGCI if some specific guidelines were followed:
     
    (i) The COI Report should be reviewed in the context of its purpose as set out in paragraph 4 above, and the stated ‘cut off’ date for inclusion of information in the report.
     
    (ii) The review of OGNs should focus exclusively on the COI contained within the document, and not pass judgment on the policy guidance provided.
     
    (iii) When suggesting amendments, rather than ‘tracking changes’ on the original OGN document, a list of suggested changes should be provided as part of a stand-alone review paper.
     
    (iv) The reviews of the COI Report and OGNs should be provided in two separate documents.
     
    (v) Any suggestions for additional information (or corrections to information in the document) must be referenced to a source document for the Home Office to be able to use it. The Home Office may use foreign language source documents, but only if the information is considered essential and is not available in English language source.
     
  7. Previous reviews can be viewed here.
     
  8. Where possible reviewers are requested to attend the IAGCI meeting at which their review will be considered (in January 2014). The UK Home Office will also be represented at the meeting to provide responses to comments and recommendations made in the review.
     
  9. All Country of Origin Information Reports and country specific Operational Guidance Notes are available from the Home Office website.
     
  10. Reviews commissioned by IAGCI may be used as source documents for future COI reports.
     
  11. In some cases COI Reports reviewed by IAGCI are for countries being examined by the UK Border Agency for possible designation (or partial designation) for the Non-Suspensive Appeals (NSA) provisions. NSA is a process whereby asylum and human rights applications from a designated country may be fast-tracked, without an in-country right of appeal. IAGCI examines the COI material for any countries proposed for the NSA process before designation.
     
  12. Reviews are required by 15 December 2013.
     
  13. A flat fee of £3,500 is offered for this work.
     
  14. Researchers interested in completing reviews should submit their cv and a letter demonstrating their expertise in human rights and/or asylum issues pertaining to the particular country to the IAGCI Chair, Dr Laura Hammond, laura.hammond@soas.ac.uk by 1 November 2013. Reviews will be commissioned by 4 November 2013.
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