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 reviews country of origin information products of the UK Home Office. The structure of these products have recently been revised, moving from separate COI Reports and Operational Guidance Notes (OGNs) to a single Country Information and Guidance (CIG) report. The format of these products is still being finalized, but will eventually be produced on an ongoing basis for the top 20 asylum intake countries. The CIG reports provide information about the issues most commonly raised in asylum claims made in the United Kingdom. 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.
3. IAGCI commissions country experts or experienced researchers to evaluate and report upon the country of origin information contained in its information products. At its next meeting, the IAGCI will consider two pilot CIG documents on the Kuwaiti Bidoon and Somalia, and wishes to commission researchers to review these reports. The draft report for Kuwait is available here and the report for Somalia is available here.
4. Country Information and Guidance Reports aim to provide an accurate, balanced and up to date summary of the key available source documents regarding the human rights situation, with respect to the issues selected for coverage, 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 should entail:
(i) Assessing the extent to which information from source documents has been appropriately and accurately reflected in the CIG Report.
(ii) Identifying additional sources detailing the current human rights situation in the country with respect to main grounds for asylum claims (which are noted in each CIG Report).
(iii) Noting and correcting any specific errors or omissions of fact.
(iv) Making recommendations for general improvements regarding, for example, the structure of the report, its coverage or its overall approach.
5. 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 Country Information and Guidance 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.
(ii) The review should focus exclusively on the country of origin information contained within the document, and not pass judgment on the policy guidance provided.
(iii) When suggesting amendments, rather than ‘tracking changes’ on the original CIG report, a list of suggested changes should be provided as part of a stand-alone review paper.
(iv) 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.
6. Previous reviews of COI products can be viewed here. However, reviewers should keep in mind that the current structure of COI products has changed significantly with the Kuwait and Somalia reports and therefore some adaptations in the form of the reviews may be needed.
7. Where possible reviewers are requested to attend the IAGCI meeting at which their review will be considered. The UK Home Office will also be represented at the meeting to provide responses to comments and recommendations made in the review.
8. Reviews commissioned by IAGCI may be used as source documents for future CIG reports or other information products.
9. In some cases CIG products reviewed by IAGCI are for countries being examined by the Home Office 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.
10. Researchers interested in completing either of these reviews should submit:
• a one page letter demonstrating their expertise in human rights and/or asylum issues pertaining to the particular country
• their c.v.
• a budget for the proposed work estimating their anticipated costs (number of days, charge per day)
Expressions of interest should be submitted to the IAGCI Chair, Dr Laura Hammond, at email@example.com by 25 April, 2014. Reviews will be commissioned by 28 April 2014. Final reviews will be required to be submitted by 30 May 2014. The reviews will be discussed at a meeting of the IAGCI in mid-June.