- Text size | | |
- Print this page
Training for Just and Fair Asylum Procedures in Hungary
Tuesday 10, November 2009
Slow, expensive, ineffective, unfair. These are the words that are very often used to describe refugee protection system - and sometimes rightfully. To improve the first instance decision making in refugee protection, some 60 country of origin specialists, legal counsels and decision makers, including the senior management of the Refugee Authority and UNHCR staff gathered for two sessions of a two-days training module in Piliscsaba, in September and October 2009.
Is the person asking for asylum truly in danger in his or her country of origin? Are his/her fears of persecution really founded? Are there safe areas in his home country where he could return instead of asking for asylum in Hungary? Similar question has to be answered each and every day by the authorities deciding on the status of asylum seekers. Each answer will determine the life and destiny of a human being or the fate of whole families. There should not be mistakes in this process.
To this aim, the European Commission and the UNHCR has launched a joint "Asylum Systems Quality Assurance and Evaluation Mechanism Project in the Central and Eastern Europe Sub-Region (ASQAEM)". In Hungary, the UNHCR started the implementation of ASQAEM in September 2008 and it will close the first phase of the project in February 2010. In this phase, an independent and objective evaluation was carried out on how the Refugee Authority and the Budapest Metropolitan Court assess and review claims for international protection, with a special focus on the European Commission's Qualification and Procedures Directives. Following the evaluation process, in dialogue with the authorities, specific actions were developed to improve the quality, fairness and efficiency of first and second instance decision making.
Eszter Minár, National Evaluator of the Quality Initiative Project for Hungary pointed out that "the ingredients of high quality asylum decisions are able decision makers, who can assess the case in all its facets, and a specialist who provides the most up-to-date and objective information on the asylum-seeker's country of origin."
"Refugee status decision makers are the doctors of the refugee world. They must do their job in full recognition that an error on their part might result in an asylum seeker being returned to persecution or, perhaps, death" said in his opening remarks at the workshop Michael A. Ross, a former Canadian refugee judge and Regional Evaluator of the Quality Initiative Project.
The training program was customized to the gaps identified at first-instance asylum interviews and decisions. It addressed issues, such as the credibility assessment; weighing evidence in refugee law; refugee status and subsidiary protection; interview techniques; structuring reasons in refugee status determination decisions and country of origin information query drafting.
The workshop in Piliscsaba was the latest example of the long term cooperation between UNHCR and the Office of Immigration and Nationality said István Ördög, Head of the OIN Refugee Affairs Directorate: "We have seen the Hungarian asylum system mature in the past 20 years, yet, we believe that continuous learning and improvement is of key importance in a profession like ours." Hungary has been a party to the 1951 Geneva Convention for two decades, "which means that a vast experience has been institutionally gathered" added Ágnes Ambrus, UNHCR National Protection Officer. "This, however, also imposes responsibility on the Office of Immigration and Nationality when training refugee status determination officers not only at home but in other countries such as Croatia, the Ukraine, Turkey through twinning arrangements," she said.
The results of the project in Hungary, as well as in other Central and Eastern European countries will be presented to high-level representatives of the authorities from the region, the European Union and UNHCR at the upcoming Final Regional Conference in Warsaw on 16-17November 2009. Building on the success of the project however, the European Commission has already approved funding for continuing with the venture in the region and to spread it to other Member States as well.