Country of origin information and return

In returning failed asylum seekers to their country of origin or a country of transit, the Home Office must be clear that the individual in question will not face reprisals upon his or her return in the form of imprisonment, torture or murder. A recent ruling by the House of Lords suggests that people facing persecution in Darfur can safely and reasonably relocate to Khartoum. These individuals therefore become internally displaced persons (IDPs) and often find themselves in camps.

Yet it is in these very camps that persecutory reprisals could take place. Recent reports suggest that ‘a new wave of violence’ is sweeping across refugee camps in Darfur. Officials are suffering attacks and arms continue to flow into the camps. In southern Sudan also, similar concerns have been raised over the safety of camps. The UNHCR has halted its repatriation programme to camps in South Sudan’s Jonglei state, as tribal tensions have become fatal in some cases.

In light of the House of Lords’ ruling, these reports raise questions about the efficacy of country of origin information. How accurate and time sensitive can this information be? Can it be provide a risk assessment for particular circumstances? Additionally, however, these discrepancies also highlight some fundamental contradictions in the way asylum offer protection (or otherwise). The hope of asylum has carried the three men in question all the way to the UK where it is their right to claim asylum, only to be told that they can (and perhaps should have done) relocate to Khartoum Return is notoriously difficult to enforce (see ICAR’s Removals Briefing), yet crucial to a credible asylum system. As conflicts become increasingly complex, this situation is likely to worsen.


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