‘It’s not what you know, it’s how you use it’: On the application of country of origin information in judicial refugee status determination decisions.
Feneberg, Valentin; Gill, Nick; Hoellerer, Nicole and Scheinert, Laura
Existing research has emphasized the different forms of expert knowledge available to refugee status determination (RSD) decision makers, as well as the differing conditions under which it is produced. However, little work has been done to address how decision makers interpret, represent, and use such evidence in their written decisions. This study investigates how country of origin information (COI) is used in judicial RSD decisions, taking decisions of Germany’s Higher Administrative Courts on Syrian draft evaders as a case study. The analysis shows that the courts draw different conclusions from the same evidence, utilizing interpretation, framing, and citation styles to amplify or dampen the persuasive force of COI in their reasoning. As such, legal reasoning dominates evidence, meaning that evidence is discursively highly malleable, frequently incidental to legal reasoning, and does not produce legal consensus. These findings raise concerns that decision makers use COI selectively to justify the positions they have adopted, rather than allowing their conclusions to be directed by COI. The article concludes by reflecting on what, if anything, should be done about these seemingly opaque and unaccountable textual and discursive forms of discretionary power.
Feneberg, Valentin; Gill, Nick; Hoellerer, Nicole and Scheinert, Laura (2022) ‘It’s not what you know, it’s how you use it’: On the application of country of origin information in judicial refugee status determination decisions. International Journal of Refugee Law. eeac036.
This is an open access paper, available here.