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Last week it was announced that the guidance issued by Britain about Eritrea being a safe country for those seeking asylum to return to is now considered to be flawed due to some “serious methodological concerns”. With record numbers of asylum seekers leaving their native country of Eritrea without permission, a watchdog appointed by the government has now released a new report that attacks the Home Office decision to change the guidance for Eritrea back in March of this year. Their original decision was based on controversial research by the Danish Immigration Service, which immigration and asylum experts are now stating does not contain sufficient evidence of the country being safe.
The claims are particularly disturbing when you consider that the official status of Eritrea being ‘safe’ will have affected many asylum claims that may have otherwise been deemed legitimate if this supposedly flawed guidance had not been issued.
The claims are being released in a report by the Independent Advisory Group on Country Information, who have been looking into the countries of origin of UK based and prospective asylum seekers. The methodological concerns in question seem to focus on an inability to corroborate certain pieces of evidence that were used to draw their findings, such as the only source of military service lengths being drawn from the Danish study, without being corroborated with additional evidence.
Many of those fleeing the country of Eritrea are young people who do not want to be subjected to what was a rigorous national service regime – the length of which was said to be indefinite. Much of the Home Office’s decision to declare Eritrea as safe was centred around the Danish claims that the national service programme had been reduced to a maximum of 4 years, although it is this claim that is now under dispute due to lack of evidence.
The Danish report has also been widely subjected to criticism, such as being labeled as “inaccurate and misleading” by the UN High Commissioner for Refugees, which further places the Home Office decision under the spotlight. It has also been suggested that the report by the Danish Immigration Service was hastily produced in order to deter asylum applications by Eritreans seeking to stay in Denmark. This is, unfortunately, a claim that has been hinted at by one of the co-authors of the report, Jens Weise Olesen, a chief immigration advisor at the DIS.
The Home Office has since released a statement via a spokesperson to say that all research into issuing guidance is considered thoroughly. It remains to be seen whether such staunch criticism will change or influence the guidance issued in March.