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COIS to revert to CIPU


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The Country of Origin Information Service (COIS) at the Home Office is the successor to the generally derided Country Information and Policy Unit (CIPU). CIPU reports were poorly researched and outright biased against asylum seekers, although many immigration judges mistakenly treated them as the whole truth. In 2004 the Immigration Advisory Service did an excellent report on CIPU. They checked every quote against the purported source. Often the source simply didn’t say anything resembling the alleged quote, or the first half of a sentence would be included but the qualifier omitted. For example, “The human rights situation in x country is generally good” would be quoted but the second half of the original sentence, “apart from for x, y and z minorities, who are subject to government persecution”, would not. Rather misleading, some might think.

CIPU was eventually broken up into an information section and a policy section. The information section was renamed COIS and became part of the (relatively) reputable and professional RDS within the Home Office, rather than remaining within what was then the Immigration and Nationality Directorate and is now UKBA.

In the last few years the Advisory Panel on Country Information (APCI) has done sterling work looking over COIS reports and the quality of the reports has improved dramatically. COIS undoubtedly sometimes get things wrong, and the last Afghanistan report was slated by the APCI, but generally things are much improved and the information is reliable and balanced.

Now, the information and policy arms are apparently to be reunited. All of the good work by COIS staff over the last few years is set to be undone. It should be clear to anyone that there is no way that policy and information can be combined without the quality and impartiality of the information being compromised. This is definitely a retrograde step.

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The Free Movement blog was founded in 2007 by Colin Yeo, a barrister at Garden Court Chambers specialising in immigration law. The blog provides updates and commentary on immigration and asylum law by a variety of authors.


2 Responses

  1. Could not agree more, especially as asylum caseworkers are expected to use COIS (either through reports or requests) as their primary, if not only, source of reliable information. I can’s say I think that the combination of role will inevitably lead to a reduction in the quality of the reports but a separation of competing interests has to be a better system.

    Of course that assumes that policy and information are competing interests, which they really shouldn’t be…

  2. An out of date quote, but this is what Ockleton had to say about the then CIPU in Devaseelan (Para 75);

    “We note that the CIPU Bulletin is also a partisan document, in that it comes from an organ of the Respondent. It is, however, little more than a compendium of material from other published sources, which are listed in the bibliography. They range from reports of international organs, through various governmental bodies in Britain and abroad, to news reports around the world. The Bulletin is arranged in such a way that the source of each statement in it can readily be traced.”


    Caseowners/workers will look first to the OGN then the CIPU, thankfully the tendency of cutting and pasting vast swathes into RFRL’s seems to have diminished (i.e. in Tamil cases).