COI – Country of Origin Information
Wiedner Hauptstraße 32, 1041 Wien
The European Country of Origin Information Network, ecoi.net, is run by the Austrian Red Cross (department ACCORD) in cooperation with Informationsverbund Asyl & Migration. ecoi.net is funded by the Asylum, Migration and Integration Fund, the Austrian Ministry of the Interior and Caritas Austria. ecoi.net is supported by ECRE & UNHCR.
By securing easy and fast access to high-quality and up-to-date country of origin information for all actors involved in asylum cases, ecoi.net contributes to a fair, effective and efficient refugee status determination procedure. The quality and accuracy of COI can thus play a determining role in achieving the aim of the Common European Asylum System that similar cases should receive similar outcomes across the EU.
In the challenging task of determining the legitimacy of a claim for refugee status, Country of Origin Information (COI) is a key element, complementing the testimonial of the applicant. It may, for example, corroborate or contradict the likelihood of the risk of persecution or help ascertain the relevance and reasonableness of available internal flight or relocation alternatives. Government COI Units will attempt to provide a balanced account of facts but may face a variety of difficulties in accessing relevant COI.
Comprehensive country of origin information encompasses many dimensions of human rights as well as on the political and living situation in a given country, presentation of ethnic groups and cultural traditions and assessments of the possible development of a security situation.
Target VG and type of host community
- Decision-makers in the field of asylum, lawyers, legal aids, international protection agencies, and agencies involved in asylum cases (i.e. Territorial Commissions in Italy) that might reject, often due to the lack of knowledge, data and information of the examined local context, and deem such applications as manifestly unfounded if they believe that no risk of persecution or serious harm exists.
- Applicants for international protection (any person who, outside their country of origin, files a request for international protection in another State, or has expressed their will to do so) depend on the decision by the designated authorities, regarding the recognition of refugee status or other forms of protection.
Application setting: context
Article 8, paragraph 3 of Legislative Decree 25/2008 provides for the examination of the application for international protection “in the light of accurate and up-to-date information on the general situation in the country of origin of the asylum seekers and, where appropriate, the countries through which they have transited, drawn up by the National Commission on the basis of data provided by the UNHCR, the Ministry of Foreign Affairs, also with the collaboration of other agencies and bodies for the protection of human rights acquired by the Commission itself’.
Article 13, paragraph 1, letter e) of Presidential Decree No. 21 of 12 January 2015 obliges the National Commission to create a documentation centre on the social, political and economic situation of the countries of origin of the applicants and to make the information included therein available to the Territorial Commissions and the courts, upon requests. The COI of the National Commission can be found for the most part on the EASO portal in Italian. They have a general character and are useful for the framing of various themes, but further investigation is advisable. The National Commission does not issue guidelines (so-called policy) with indications on repatriation. Each Territorial Commission is fully independent and interprets IOOCs in the light of current legislation.
Nonetheless, obstacles to nationals of specific countries continued to be witnessed in the Hotspots in 2018. In Lampedusa, Sicily, nationals of countries informally considered as safe have been issued repatriation orders and have been returned despite having requested international protection.
The Italian government signed on 4/10/19 a decree establishing a list of “safe countries of origin”. The concept was introduced for the first time in the Italian asylum procedure following the 2018 legislative reform by Decree Law 113/2018, implemented by L 132/2018.
Asylum seekers coming from one of states considered as safe may be subject to an accelerated procedure, whereby Territorial Commissions decide on their application within five days unless they can demonstrate they flee their countries because their life was at risk. Territorial Commissions can reject such applications as manifestly unfounded if they deem that no risk of persecution or serious harm exists. The border procedure, applicable in the southern and north-eastern regions of the Italy according to a recent decree, can also be applied to nationals of these countries.
- To contribute to fair and efficient refugee status determination procedures by securing easy and fast access to high-quality and up-to-date country of origin information (COI) for all actors involved in asylum cases
- To promote the principle of public domain information as well as equal access to high-quality country of origin information for all persons involved in asylum cases or other forms of international protection.
- To gather targeted, relevant, reliable, accurate and up-to-date country of origin information in a transparent and impartial manner according to relevant guidelines;
- To establish Specialist COI Networks composed of national COI experts on key countries of origin at EU level (currently 10 such networks exist)
- To draft, via a Network Approach in cooperation with willing MS COI experts, joint COI reports;
- To organize country-specific practical cooperation workshops inviting experts from the region
- To manage and further develops the EASO COI Portal which provides a common entry point to EU-produced COI and offers additional resources for Member States
Very consistent and updated IMPORTANT DOCUMENTS section.
Topics and Issues in focus
- Country background (e.g. history, economy, languages)
- Politics and law (e.g. government, political parties, elections)
- Human rights (e.g. religious, ethnic, political affiliation, women)
- Humanitarian issues (e.g. health, social security, food supply)
- Protection-related issues (e.g. IPA, return, third countries)
- Security (e.g. security situation, criminality and corruption)
ecoi.net covers more than 160 sources on a regular basis. ecoi.net preferably uses reliable information sources or sources with a high reputation, such as the United Nations, international non-governmental organisations, news and media services or government departments dealing with asylum and refugee issues. However, ecoi.net also includes less prestigious sources if they offer an added information value.
353,021 documents in total (on the 10th December 2019).
169 countries reports, articles, news articles, position papers, expert opinions, appeals and press releases, as well as maps and laws. Additionally, ecoi.net contains the broadest collection of COI query responses & COI reports available publicly on the web.
For easy access to the different kinds of publications, the content management staff categorises new entries into the following types of documents:
- periodical reports (annual reports, monthly briefs, etc.)
- special reports (special publications, reports that are not published periodically)
- appeals and news releases (by human rights NGOs, for instance)
- media reports (news articles by international or local media)
- expert opinions and positions
- national laws
- (COI) query responses
Difficulties or constrains for its implementation
- Whereas it’s advised, information has been proven not to be used in all procedures (1)
- Language limitations across Europe: Most highly informative documents are available in English, some in German and some in French or other languages. The ecoi.net user interface is available in English and German. The search function allows for restriction to a specific language
- The material is not regularly updated on the Italian section. https://www.ecoi.net/en/countries/italy/
- E.g. Italian National laws dating back to 2014
- The COI portal ecoi.net is free of charge
- Daily updates, with an average of 20 to 50 new documents a day (e.g. more than 30,000 new information items a year). Weekly personalised alerts on selected countries and/or document types are sent on request, enabling easy monitoring of country updates. At present, they offer access to more than 300,000 documents, covering COI and refugee-related policy, legislation and jurisprudence. This constantly updated information is accessible from anywhere, free of charge.
- Easy to use and powerful research and navigation functions. Filters can be used for country, publishers, document types, publication time-frames and languages. Search and spelling suggestions assist when looking, for example, for different spellings of names of political parties, military groups or religious groups. All these features allow for speedy and effective investigation.
- Versatile Content Management Systems (CMS). Both Refworld and Ecoi.net are fed through a specifically designed CMS that allows for identification, specification and retrievability of each document, allowing for batch imports of hundreds of documents at a time.
- Online activities usually leave traces. When you are looking for sensitive information, e.g. on a or about a person, the researcher and/or the person being researched could be identified by a third party. This may in some cases compromise the safety of the researcher, of the source or the asylum seeker.
- Information available on the website of the Ministry of Foreign Affairs http://www.viaggiaresicuri.it/ are carefully collected in accordance with art. 19-bis of Law no. 43 of 17.4.2015 also with the help of the secret services but, turning to the Italians who intend to go abroad, they are not found to be always useful in the field of international protection. For example, it may happen that the moderate risks of a country is tolerable for the short stay of Italians but not for the repatriation of asylum seekers, or vice versa, xenophobic demonstrations taking place in a country creates dangers for the Italians there, but not for the applicants to be repatriated.
Year and length (duration)
Ongoing – online since June 2001.
CRITERIA actors or stakeholder are using to assess them as a “good practice”
- Promotes fair, effective and efficient refugee status determination procedures.
- Impartial information policy.
- Objective and neutral presentation of country of origin information
- Focuses on human rights issues of relevance for procedures of international protection
- Includes information regardless of its positive or negative character
- Personalisation features: whereby users can create and organise their own online libraries, saving documents or entire search results. This allows to save time in retrieving documents and local computer space, as the information is safely stored online.