Asylos is a pan-European network of volunteers
researching information for asylum claims.
Meet the Asylos team
The Asylos network’s volunteer researchers work to ensure that every asylum seeker has a fair opportunity to claim his or her right to protection. Evidence to prove persecution or to support the credibility of an individual testimony is a vital element in decisions taken to grant or withhold asylum. Still, many refugees and their legal representatives cannot access this information. As a result, our legal system fails to protect them.
To redress this imbalance and protect the right to asylum we work to:
- ensure that asylum seekers and their legal counsel have access to crucial sources and data to substantiate their claim
We believe that refugees and their counsel should have equal access to information and sufficient resources to conduct the needed research. Those helping to defend asylum seekers’ rights face great difficulties when researching information: it often requires understanding local languages and experience in researching complex human rights issues, as well as access to expert evidence in the countries of origin. However, asylum procedures, which have been drastically shortened in many European countries, and limited legal aid budgets don’t allow resources or time for sufficient research.
- ensure that the asylum procedure is evidence-based and unbiased
We believe that decisions on individual claims should be fair and based on proper evidence instead of pre-conceived notions. Country-of-origin information reports produced by public administrations should meet the highest standards of our legal system and be driven by respect for human rights. Information compiled by public authorities should be accessible to the public. Asylum courts should rule based on the best available evidence and data. Officials with decision-making power regarding asylum claims should have received sufficient training to be able to make evidence-based decisions. They need to be aware of the latest developments in the countries of origin of the asylum seekers.
How we work
To access very detailed information from remote areas, and often from conflict zones, we use investigative research techniques. Collectively, Asylos’s volunteers can conduct research in more than 20 languages. After consulting relevant publications from human rights NGOs, governments, international organisations and international and local media, we can fill information gaps by conducting interviews with experts, such as NGO professionals in the countries of origin, academics, or journalists. In addition, we leverage online tools and social media for obtaining evidence for asylum claims: for example, we can use social network analysis to obtain information about events or people, satellite imagery analysis to prove the existence of specific places, and domain registration records to identify website owners.
In addition to using existing datasets, we’ve built internal search engines to more effectively search sources we trust, including sources in local languages, and to categorise and share information through bookmarking services.
Researching case-specific information
Our research is free of charge and conducted at the request of asylum lawyers and NGOs assisting asylum seekers with their claims. Our reports detail human rights violations in specific countries or investigate specific facts relating to the claimant’s testimony.
Producing new sources
In addition to our case-specific work, we collaborate with other NGOs to produce new sources to fill gaps in country-of-origin information.
Promoting better procedures
We also gather data about the use and impact of evidence in asylum courts. Learning what works in court enables us to advocate for better procedures and fairer decision making on asylum claims.
During the past six years, we have produced nearly 300 research notes and helped many individuals claim their right to asylum. Lawyers tell us that they would not have had the resources to conduct thorough country-of-origin information research without our help. Our research notes are quoted in court decisions and have been used by UNHCR to inform UN eligibility guidelines. Through our research we have helped counter misinformation and stereotypes in asylum courts and administrations.