Regional project enhanced capacity of the asylum system in Belarus.
On 26-27 May, a final conference of the Asylum Systems Quality Initiative in Eastern Europe and South Caucasus Project gathered migration officials from ten countries in Kyiv to discuss achieved results and plans for future collaboration. Enhanced training for government asylum officers, the creation of a research database in Russian and the development of quality assurance tools are key achievements of the regional project that has improved the refugee system in Belarus.
The two and a half year project, funded by the European Union and co-funded and implemented by United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees, was designed to strengthen the protection of asylum-seekers and refugees in six countries in the EU’s eastern neighbourhood: Armenia, Azerbaijan, Belarus, Georgia, Moldova and Ukraine. The participants benefited from active engagement with four EU Member States: Germany, Poland, Romania and Sweden. With a 2.5 million euro budget, the project focused on improvement of the quality, fairness and efficiency of asylum decision-making in the participating countries.
Following a joint survey of the national asylum system, Belarus has committed to build on existing strengths, to bridge gaps and to develop quality assurance mechanisms. “In spite of the fact that Belarus possesses developed legislation in the sphere of forced migration and operating state refugee determination procedure is in place, there is a need in further enhancement of legislative framework in this area and law enforcement practices, and ensuring and maintaining high quality of decisions issued upon individual cases of the applicants. This is especially relevant to Belarus, because in 2014 there was a fourfold increase of the number of foreigners who sought protection in the country (in 2015 this tendency remains), and in 2013 – beginning of 2015 quite a number of new staff members of the authorities of citizenship and migration who are in particular need of appropriate professional training and acquisition of experience of with asylum-seekers has appeared”, – noted Jean Yves Bouchardy, UNHCR Representative in the Republic of Belarus.
Through more than 100 regional conferences, joint trainings, study visits and individualized training events, the project helped the participating countries to address the most important weaknesses and enhance practical cooperation on asylum matters. The EU Member States have provided good practice advice and shared their vast experience with the relatively new asylum systems in the region. Migration officials from Eastern Europe received access to several training modules developed for EU Member States by the European Asylum Support Office. Translated into the Russian language, these capacity building tools can be easily accessed and used by new staff and other countries.
The launch of the Russian version of Refworld (www.refworld.org.ru), the largest online database of key documents relating to refugee status determination, has helped to satisfy a demand for the latest, in-depth and impartial data about the situation in countries of origin. Asylum officials now have, free of charge, access to comprehensive and unbiased information to assist them in analyzing asylum applications.
Since December 2013, more than 10,000 documents in Russian have been uploaded to the website, including a vast collection of reports, policy guidance, position papers, along with decisions of the European Court of Human Rights, European Union asylum acquis and relevant national legislation. A number of thematic pages in Refworld with information on Children; Gender Equality and Women; Caselaw of the European Court of Human Rights; Refugee Protection and International Migration; Refugee Status Determination; and the UN Human Rights System, are also useful for a wider audience including human rights activists, judges, academics and researchers.
“UNHCR deems that all skills and experience which were acquired by personnel of state authorities within the framework of the project’s implementation, as well as new opportunities which became available due to the project (in particular, launch of Russian version of Refworld) will positively affect the effectiveness of work with persons seeking protection in the Republic of Belarus. We are sure that thanks to existing high level of cooperation between the government, international and non-governmental organization we will be able to maintain achieved results and ensure further development of Belarusian asylum system”, – stated Jean Yves Bouchardy, UNHCR Representative in the Republic of Belarus.