International Conference - 10th and 11th June 2010


'Challenges and Commonalities in Providing Objective Evidence for Refugee Status Determination'

CORI is holding a two day conference on 10th and 11th June 2010, drawing together experts and practitioners involved in providing objective evidence within refugee status determination to discuss 'Challenges and Commonalities in Providing Objective Evidence for Refugee Status Determination'.

Objective Evidence

Objective evidence is used to determine whether or not a person’s fear of persecution is well founded. The decision making process requires analysis and opinion from country, medical, psychological and language experts in assessing the validity of an applicants claim for refugee status.

Country of Origin Information (COI) Research
COI researchers collate legally relevant information on conditions in countries of origin from publicly available sources, covering human rights, legislation, politics, culture, society, religion and healthcare.

Country expertise
Professionals (academics, lawyers, journalists, etc) with an in-depth knowledge of thematic issues in a country of origin, based on first hand experience, are called on to provide analysis of conditions, systems, practices and procedures in the country of origin.

Medical expertise
Doctors are called on to provide an opinion on the degree of consistency between an individual’s scars and injuries and the means of torture or harm reported by the individual.

Psychological expertise
Psychologists and Psychiatrists are called on to provide an opinion on whether an applicants mental condition is consistent with having suffered specific types of harm, the impact of trauma on memory and disclosure and whether an applicant meets criteria requiring removal from detention and fast track processes.

Linguistic expertise
Linguists are called on to provide an opinion on what language(s) and dialect an applicant speaks and whether or not an applicant is of the ethnic group that he/she claims.

Conference Themes

This conference will be an opportunity for academic, experts and legal practitioners to debate;
  • Challenges in producing, assessing and applying objective evidence
  • Commonalities between the professional groups providing objective evidence
  • Best practice
  • Professional standards (as academic, as expert)
  • Paradigm clashes between the standards, assumptions and expectations of academic disciplines and the nature of evidence as required by in a legal context
  • Credibility, impartiality and objectivity
The conference will explore the key issues and challenges of the following professional groups, in providing, assessing or applying objective evidence;
  • COI Researchers
  • Country Experts
  • Language Experts
  • Medical Experts
  • Psychological Experts
  • Legal Representatives
  • Judges
The conference will be of interest to all stakeholders to RSD, in particular to legal practitioners, decision makers, COI Researchers, language, medical, psychological, country and thematic experts, NGO's, professionals and students in the fields of Human Rights, Law, Anthropology, Medicine, Psychology, Sociology, Linguistics, Religion and Gender.

Conference schedule and booking

The conference will be held at the University of Westminster, New Cavendish Street, W1W 6UW.

The structure of both days will include;

a) two panels made up of single professional groups discussing the key issues and challenges of providing objective evidence
b)two workshops exploring lawyers and judges' perspectives
c)a final multi-stakeholder panel discussing commonalities between the professional groups and areas where professionalism can be strengthened

For the full conference schedule and booking form click here (pdf) or here (Word).


Professor Guy Goodwin-Gill, University of Oxford - Keynote 10th June
Professor Goodwin-Gill, MA, DPhil (Oxon), is a Senior Research Fellow of All Souls College, Oxford and Professor of International Refugee Law in the University of Oxford. He was formerly Professor of Asylum Law at the University of Amsterdam, and served as a Legal Adviser in the Office of United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR) in various countries from 1976-1988.  Professor Goodwin-Gill has written extensively on refugees, migration, elections, and child soldiers. He is the Founding Editor of the International Journal of Refugee Law (Oxford University Press) and was Editor-in-Chief from 1989-2001. His numerous other publications include The Limits of Transnational Law, with Hélène Lambert, 2010; The Refugee in International Law, (with Dr Jane McAdam), 2007; and Free and Fair Elections in 2006.  Professor Goodwin-Gill has been a member of the Council of the Overseas Development Institute (ODI) since 2007, and a Patron of Asylum Aid since 2008.

Suzanne Duff, Head of RSD, UNHCR - Keynote 11th June
Suzanne Duff is currently the Head of the Refugee Status Determination (RSD) in the Division of International Protection (DIP) of UNHCR Geneva. The RSD Unit oversees UNHCR's refugee status determination operations globally and provides guidance and support to UNHCR staff who are carrying out or supervising RSD in UNHCR and State procedures.  Suzanne began her work with UNHCR in Canada in 1999 as the Legal Officer for Western Canada and has worked with the RSD Unit in Geneva since 2002. She drafted the Procedural Standards for Refugee Status Determination under UNHCR's Mandate (2003) and developed administered UNHCR's RSD Learning Programme, a comprehensive and mandatory training for UNHCR RSD staff.

Dr Christopher McDowell, City University
Christopher McDowell is a political anthropologist and Reader in International Politics at City University London. He is a member of the Independent Advisory Group on Country Information and previously sat on the APCI. Christopher undertakes research on global forced population displacement and resettlement with a particular interest in conflict migration in South Asia and East Africa, and development-created resettlement in China and SE Asia. His publications include Non Conflict Displacement: Challenges for the 21st Century (2010, Berghahn), Catching Fire (2006, Lexington), Risks and Reconstruction (2000, World bank) and A Tamil Asylum  Diaspora (1996, Berghahn). He is currently working on population displacement arising out of adaptation to and mitigation of projected climate change for the UK Government.

Beth Collier, Director, CORI
Beth Collier is Director of CORI, an independent centre providing specialist research and training on COI to support refugee status determination (RSD). CORI works internationally with all parties to RSD including Governments, lnter-governmental bodies, NGO's and Legal Representatives; providing commissioned reports, knowledge management services and working to raise standards of COI production and application through capacity building and bespoke training.  Beth is the author of ‘Country of Origin Information and Women: Researching gender and persecution in the context of asylum and human rights claims’, Asylum Aid, London, 2007. Prior to founding CORI in 2008, Beth ran an information centre on women’s human rights providing COI research and training to legal representatives and refugee women at Asylum Aid for over five years.  Beth founded and Chairs the COI Practitioners Forum and sat as an Observer to the Advisory Panel on Country Information as a gender specialist. 

Anna Ladurner, ACCORD (Austria)
Anna Ladurner has been working as a Country of Origin Information (COI) researcher and trainer for the Austrian Centre for Country of Origin and Asylum Research and Documentation (ACCORD) since 2006. As COI trainer she designed, conducted and organized numerous workshops and Blended Learning Courses on COI for different target groups in European- and extra-European countries. Since 2009 Anna also co-ordinates the COI Training Network, a group of COI trainers from governmental and non-governmental institutions from several European countries.  Anna received her Master’s Degree in German and Spanish Philology at the University of Vienna. During her studies she specialized in linguistics and didactics of second language teaching. Prior to joining ACCORD she worked amongst others for the UNHCR Regional Office in Vienna.

Beatrice Ureche, UNHCR (Geneva)
Béatrice Ureche, a legal consultant with the Division of International Protection, United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR), has been working in the field of international refugee and human rights law, at national and international levels, for the past eight years. Since joining UNHCR, in June 2007, Béatrice has drafted country-specific policy positions, including eligibility guidelines for assessing the international protection needs of asylum-seekers from Afghanistan, Eritrea, Ethiopia and Pakistan. From 2005-2007, Béatrice worked as a Legal Researcher with the UK Asylum and Immigration Tribunal and acted as a Contributing Editor for the Immigration Appeal Reports. In 2004, she coordinated an investigation into human rights violations perpetrated against non-Albanian ethnic minorities in Kosovo during the clashes of March 2004. From 2002-2004 she served as a legal officer in the Special Court for Sierra Leone. Béatrice is qualified lawyer in Massachusetts, USA, and Quebec, Canada.

Richard Lederle, Head of  Home Office COIS
Richard Lederle is the current Head of Unit for the UK Border Agency’s Country of Origin Information Service (COIS). Having commenced his employment for the then Immigration and Nationality Directorate in 1999, Richard has worked in a range of areas dealing with many stages of the asylum process; from screening initial Applicants to decision making, from representing the Secretary of State before the Asylum and Immigration Tribunal and Judicial Reviews through to Removals.

Professor Anthony Good, University of Edinburgh

Professor Anthony Good is Professor Emeritus of Anthropology at Univeristy of Edinburgh whose research interests include Tamil Nadu, South India; Sri Lanka, asylum and immigration law; refugees, family and kinship, Hinduism, social development policy; NGOs. Professor Good had undertaken substantial recent research in the UK, on the administrative and legal processes involved in claiming asylum. Professor Good frequently acts as an expert witness in asylum appeals in the UK and Canada, mainly involving Sri Lankan Tamils. In 2003, 2006, and February 2010 I made brief fact-finding visits to assess the human rights situation in Sri Lanka, producing reports for use as evidence in asylum appeal cases. In 2000/01 I carried out ESRC-funded research into uses of expert evidence in the British asylum courts.

Dr Alan George, University of Oxford
Alan George gained his first degree, in geography, from Oxford University in 1970. He obtained his Master’s degree (on Middle East geography) at Durham University in 1972, and his PhD, on Syria, also at Durham in 1978. Since 1984 he has worked as a freelance journalist, researcher and expert witness in political asylum cases involving the Middle East. As a journalist, he contributed to a wide range of UK and international publications including the Observer, the Independent and the Guardian, and he has frequently commentated on Middle Eastern affairs for radio and television. He is a former Head of Research at the Arab-British Chamber of Commerce and a former Assistant Director of the Council for the Advancement of Arab-British Understanding (CAABU). His publications include Syria: Neither Bread Nor Freedom (Zed Books, London, 2003); and Jordan: Living in the Crossfire (Zed Books, London, 2005). In 2003 he was elected a Senior Associate Member of St Antony’s College, Oxford University.

Dr John Campbell, SOAS
Dr John Campbell [] teaches anthropology at the School of Oriental & African Studies. London. His research interests include: (a) urbanization, urban poverty and state policies; (b) the role of civil society, especially the contribution to development of non-governmental organizations; (c) the resurgence of ethnicity and nationalism in Eastern and Northeastern Africa; and (d) the development and use of qualitative research methods in development research. He has just completed a two-year research project funded by the Economic & Social Research Council entitled ‘Refugees and the Law: an ethnography of the British Asylum System’ during which he analyzed the work of immigration lawyers/barristers and government agencies who are involved in litigating asylum applications and/or shaping and implementing immigration and asylum policy. He is an acknowledged country expert on Ethiopia and Eritrea.

Stephanie Schwandner-Sievers
Stephanie Schwandner-Sievers graduated in Balkan Studies and Social Anthropology in Berlin (MA 1993), specialising on Albanian cultures and society. She has regularly conducted ethnographic research in Albania and Kosovo since 1988. Between 1997 and 2003 she served the School of Slavonic and East European Studies, University College London, as the first Alex Nash Fellow for Albanian Studies. Today she directs an academic consultancy firm, Anthropology Applied Limited; is an Honorary Research Fellow at Roehampton University; a Research Associate at SSEES/ UCL; a visiting lecturer (professore a contratto) at Bologna University and under research contract with Free University Berlin/ Thyssen Foundation. She has published extensively on Albanian politics of representation and identity, traditionalism, gender, security, myth, memory, nationalism and transnationalism and produced numerous studies and reports for both UK and international courts and agencies, including the ICTY, World Bank, IOM, small-arms survey Geneva, UK criminal and immigration courts and social services.

Nick Oakeshott, Head of Law, Asylum Aid
Nick Oakeshott is a barrister who has worked for NGOs providing legal advice and representation to asylum seekers in the UK for over a decade.  He is currently Head of Law at Asylum Aid and a Visiting Lecturer at Westminster University.  In addition, he is a UK coordinator of the European Legal Network on Asylum, coordinator of the Refugee Legal Group, chairperson of ECRE’s Asylum Systems Core Group and a member of the steering group of the ‘Still Human, Still Here’ campaign.

Justice John MacDonald, Immigration Judge
John MacDonald is an Immigration Judge, he became an adjudicator in asylum and immigration matters in 1998, sitting at Taylor House, he later sat in Glasgow and is the Scottish rep at the CIJ. John was appointed as Legal Chairman on the Immigration and Asylum Tribunal, and sat regularly at Field House in this capacity.  John was formerly a partner in three Glasgow law firms specialising in personal injury and medical negligence litigation acting for insurers and the Medical Defence Unions.  John served for many years as a Sheriff, overseeing Jury Trials, Fatal Accident Inquiries, civil proofs, legal debates (civil) and summary criminal trials.  He has a long standing connection with the Universities of Glasgow and Strathclyde as a Senior Tutor and lecturer.

Roland Schilling, UK UNHCR Representative

Roland Schilling took up his post as UNHCR Representative in London in July 2009.  He arrived in the UK after four years in Ankara as the refugee agency’s Deputy Representative, where he oversaw refugee protection activities and supported the Turkish Government in establishing a national asylum system.  From 2002 - 2005 he served as Deputy Representative for UNHCR in Sri Lanka, where he managed field activities and re-integration support to internally displaced persons.  Following the tsunami disaster he coordinated the UN humanitarian work in the vital shelter sector. Earlier in his UNHCR career he was posted twice to Germany, as Deputy Representative from 1998 – 2002, during which time he was called by the German Minister of the Interior to join the Federal Government’s Immigration Commission which prepared the reforms of the previously controversial migration and asylum system.  From 1991 - 1995 he served as Liaison Officer with the then Federal Office for the Recognition of Foreign Refugees in Nuremberg.

Justcie Richard McKee, Senior Immigration Judge
Richard McKee lectured in Linguistics for some years at various London colleges (School of Oriental & African Studies, Goldsmiths’ College, Polytechnic of Central London and Central School of Speech & Drama) before switching to Law.  Richard was called to the Bar, and during the 1990s he specialized in representing immigrants and asylum seekers in their appeals.  In 2000 Richard was appointed a part-time immigration adjudicator, and he is now a judge of the Upper Tribunal, Immigration & Asylum Chamber.  Richard is a contributor to Butterworths’ Immigration Law Service and to Tottel’s Immigration Law and Practice, and have written numerous articles for publications like the Journal of Immigration, Asylum and Nationality Law and the Immigration Law Digest.  For several years Richard provided the cases reports and commentaries for the Immigration Law Digest.

Colin Yeo, Barrister, Renaissance Chambers
Colin is an immigration and family law practitioner. Colin is an editor of the Butterworths Immigration Law Service and has written numerous articles in various journals, including Tottel's Immigration, Asylum and Nationality Law, the Immigration Advisory Service Law Digest and the International Journal of Refugee Law. Colin worked for the Refugee Legal Centre (now Refugee and Migrant Justice) as a legal officer and was Director of Legal Services and Training at the Immigration Advisory Service before joining chambers. His areas of practice include all aspects of immigration and asylum law and family law child care proceedings. In both immigration and family law he has appeared at all levels up to and including the Court of Appeal and frequently advises and represents in judicial review cases. Colin regularly trains for ILPA and HJT Training and is a current member of the Immigration Law Practitioners Association executive committee.

David Rhys Jones, Independent Consultant
David Rhys Jones began his career in the refugee field in the Refugee Unit of the UK Immigration Advisory Service (UKIAS) and he has since worked with UNHCR in Asia, Refugee Legal Centre (RLC), Glazer Delmar solicitors, the Association of Visitors to Immigration Detainees (AVID) and Bail for Immigration Detainees (BID). In January 2002 he began work as a policy officer at the Medical Foundation for the Care of Victims of Torture. In 2007 his role was redefined to concentrate on medico-legal issues. David left the Medical Foundation in 2010.  He continues to work as a consultant, researcher and trainer in the torture/trauma medico-legal field working with colleagues from centres in the UK (principally the Helen Bamber Foundation) and elsewhere in Europe. David is co-author of the article Medical Evidence in Asylum and Human Rights Appeals (IJRL, Vol 3, No. 3, 381-410). 

Professor Peter Patrick, University of Essex
Professor Peter Patrick is a Sociolinguist in the Department of Language and Linguistics at the Univeristy of Essex. Prior to Essex, he taught in the Sociolinguistics programme at Georgetown University. He conducted a sociolinguistic survey of Kingston, Jamaica for his doctoral thesis (1992) and has published Urban Jamaican Creole: Variation in the Mesolect (Benjamins 1999). His latest book is Comparative Creole Syntax: Parallel Outlines of 18 Creole Grammars (Battlebridge Publications, 2007), coedited with John Holm, which systematically compares 18 Creole languages across 97 grammatical features.  He has also published a number of articles in his major areas of interest - language variation and change, pidgin and creole studies, linguistic human rights, sociolinguistic methods, urban dialectology, and languages of the African diaspora. He has applied sociolinguistics to non-academic problems through testimony in criminal cases, studies of clinical communication, and interventions in the asylum process. He is a member of the University of Essex Human Rights Centre, and the Centre for Trauma, Asylum and Refugees. A founding member of the Language and National Origin Group of linguists, and a co-author of the Guidelines for the use of language analysis in relation to questions of national origin in refugee cases (2004), he is also co-convenor of the Language and Asylum Research Group.

Dr Maaike Verrips, De Taal Studio (Netherlands)
Dr Maaike Verrips is the proprietor of De Taalstudio and is also the company's director. She studied general linguistics at the University of Amsterdam and specialised in psycholinguistics and sociolinguistics. Since 2003 De Taalstudio has specialised in providing objective and independent language analysis and second opinions in the Dutch asylum procedure, and was recognised repeatedly as an expert organisation up to the highest Dutch court. In doing so, De Taalstudio is committed to the standards laid down in the Guidelines for the Use of Language Analysis. Besides providing expert evidence, De Taalstudio also plays a prominent role in the international academic discussion on standards and criteria for Language analysis.

Brian Allen, Independent Language Expert
Brian Allen lived in Kenya and Tanzania for over 20 years, working in adult education and development with Swahili speaking peoples from all over East Africa. He published several Swahili books while in East Africa, some of which were then translated into other East African languages, and his work was concentrated among the coastal people groups. Since relocating to UK and his native Dublin in 2000, he has been involved with Swahili speaking refugees, initially as an interpreter. A solicitor in Leeds asked for his help in identifying the nationality of Bajuni speaking asyklum speakers in 2001. Since then he has researched the dialect/language, geography and customs of the Bajuni and has been established as an expert witness and nationality tester. He has interviewed over 350 Bajunis and his services are in demand from solicitors all over UK and he has also helped with cases in Ireland, Belgium and Holland.

Dr Al Wer, University of Essex

Pia Enevi, Sprakab
Pia Enevi is the General Manager at Sprakab.
 Sprakab Språkanalys consists of the operational heads, linguists and administrative staff. In addition, we have an extensive network of experienced language analysts and we are able to provide lanaguage analyses in most languages. Sprakab Language Analysis is commissioned by the Swedish Police Service as well as the Swedish Migration Board and other police authorities from other countries. The results of the analyses are at present sent in German, English and French.

David Bell, Consultant Psychiatrist, Tavistock Clinic
Dr David Bell is President-Elect of The British Psychoanalytic Society and Consultant  Psychiatrist in Psychotherapy at the Adult Department of the Tavistock and Portman NHS Foundation Trust.  He  has considerable experience as a psychiatric expert in immigration tribunals and is regularly instructed by leading Human Rights lawyers. His evidence has been highly praised in the  courts and has been crucial in many determinations. He has also lectured to Immigration Judges on the assessment of psychiatric evidence.

Helen Bamber, The Helen Bamber Foundation
Helen Bamber has worked tirelessly in the human rights field for over 60 years helping thousands of survivors of human rights violations worldwide. She began working with survivors in the former concentration camp, Bergen-Belsen after WWII. Helen Bamber was an early member of Amnesty International and in 1985 established The Medical Foundation for the Care of Victims of Torture, where she was the founder and former director until early 2005.  With her colleague Dr Michael Korzinski, Helen Bamber established the Helen Bamber Foundation in 2005, a human rights organisation dedicated to the care and treatment of survivors of gross human rights violations. The Helen Bamber Foundation provides therapeutic and practical support to over 2500 clients today. Named European Woman of Achievement in 1993, she was awarded the OBE in 1997 and in the same year also received a lifetime Human Rights Achievement award.  In 2009, she received the Dag Hammarskjold Inspiration Award as well as the 1st Annual Times / Sternberg Active Life Award.

Dr Jane Herlihy, Centre for the Study of Emotions and Law
Dr. Jane Herlihy is the Executive Director of CSEL. She is a Chartered Consultant Clinical Psychologist and has been writing and conducting research into the decision-making process in refugee status claims since 2000.  She worked briefly part time at the Medical Foundation for the Care of Victims of Torture between 2000 and 2001 and then from 2001 to 2005 at the Refugee Service of the Traumatic Stress Clinic, a centre for asylum seekers and refugees experiencing difficulties following traumatic experiences. She currently has part time clinical role at the Trauma Clinic in London. She is an Honorary Lecturer at University College, London.

Dr Angela Burnett, Medicial Foundation for the Care of Victims of Torture
Angela Burnett is a GP at the Sanctuary Practice in Hackney, East London, which was originally established to provide a dedicated service for asylum seekers and refugees and which now caters for a wider practice population. She has also worked at the Medical Foundation for the Care of Victims of Torture since 1994. She provides training on the health care of refugees and torture survivors and has assisted in the development of health services throughout the UK. Previously she has worked in Zambia, providing health care for people affected by HIV/AIDS and their families and researching collaboration between traditional healers and formal health workers. She has also worked in Macedonia evaluating a professional development programme for doctors and with Oxfam in Ethiopia, with people affected by drought and famine.   She writes on the health of refugees and survivors of torture, including a series in the BMJ, several book chapters, guidelines and a resource pack for health workers.

Professor Geoff Gilbert, Editor in Chief, International Journal of Refugee Law and School of Law and Human Rights, University of Essex
Professor Geoff Gilbert is a barrister and Director of the LLM in International Human Rights and Humanitarian Law at the University of Essex.  Geoff teaches options in International Criminal Law, the Protection of Refugees and Displaced Persons in International Law, and Acute Crisis and Displacement. He was Head of Department 2000-2003. He is Editor-in-Chief of the International Journal of Refugee Law. He works with UNHCR, the OSCE and the Council of Europe on promoting human rights and refugee law. In 2006-07, he was a specialist adviser to the Joint Parliamentary Committee on Human Rights in its inquiry into the rights of asylum seekers in the United Kingdom.  In 2009 he was elected a Bencher of the Middle Temple and he will be called in February 2010.

Roundtable: New Media and COI

22 April 2010

This Roundtable has been convened to consider the potential impact of new media on COI research and to develop principles of good practice around the treatment of emerging mediums. It will consider;

§                Range of new media sources which may contain COI
Whether or not it is ever appropriate to use information contained in new media sources
Issues of source assessment, credibility and presenting information
Professional standards in the treatment of sources using new media formats

For discussion paper and agenda click here.

Establishing 'well founded fear', the use of country of origin information as objective evidence in refugee status determination

University of Essex Speaker Series, 11th November 2009

The seminar will explore the use of COI, its status as objective evidence, methods of research, and its application by legal representatives, government decision makers and judges.

For the powerpoint presentation click here.