At CSEL we are used to taking the slow science approach to thinking about asylum decision making and psychological research, so it feels good when we also have the opportunity to work more closely with those at the forefront of emerging events. This is how it has felt this autumn, as Zoe was invited to speak at the EU Expert Meeting On Unaccompanied Minor Asylum Seekers in the Ukraine, and Jane joined the International Centre for Migration Policy Development in Tbilisi, Georgia, to present the first of three training seminars on structured decision making. Both of these initiatives are deliberately targeting and working with decision makers in eastern and southern Europe, where so much of the pressure of new arrivals of refugees is the focus at the moment.
Zoe: Kiev, Ukraine sounded slightly hair-raising, especially as the Maidan – site of the revolution which overthrew President Yanukovych a year ago- was a stroll away from the conference. Despite recent history the Unaccompanied Minor Asylum Seekers meeting was a fantastic opportunity to work with countries from the Eastern Partnership including Azerbaijan, Belarus, Moldova, Georgia, and Poland. The 2 day meeting was hosted by Ukraine, Sweden and the European Commission and focused on many important aspects of minors’ asylum applications. I was very happy to be invited to present the psychological research in ‘Asylum Credibility Assessment in Minors and Memory: A Psychological Perspective’. As well as presentations we had small group discussions on a case study which illuminated the different practices between countries and ongoing issues of personal assumptions which so often affect decision-making.
Jane: Meanwhile I was in Tbilisi, working with a training team including a UK judge, an Austrian judge and members from the Swedish Migration Board and the German BAMF. Tbilisi may bring to mind crumbling antiquities – and their churches are indeed incredibly old – but the new architecture is brilliantly modern, producing a fusion of ancient stone and shiny steel that is lit at night to beautiful effect.
By day we worked hard, on structured approaches to decision making and – drawing on the Credo training manual – credibility assessment. This series of three training seminars aims to not only improve skills and knowledge, but also to promote continued expert-level dialogue and information exchange between the decision makers in these key European border states.
Most of the decision makers we have spoken to in these projects have been working with newer systems and smaller numbers than we are used to in western Europe. However, we think that this makes for a great opportunity to work with them, to think about how an emergent asylum system can be the best possible asylum system, despite all the difficulties. And of course, making decisions that are correct, fair and properly-informed by the best available psychological knowledge is at the heart of any humane, efficient & just asylum system.