Spain/Colombia: Information exchange puts Colombian asylum seekers at risk

CEAR, the Spanish Commission for Assistance to Refugees, warns in its June 2008 legal bulletin that the cross-checking of information on Colombian asylum applicants' documents by the Asylum and Refuge Office with Colombian authorities during asylum proceedings contravenes data protection legislation and the nature of the asylum process, undermining the safety of asylum seekers from this country. Problems that are highlighted include the infiltration of Colombian institutions by members of paramilitary groups and the contravening of guarantees of confidentiality that applicants receive when they first apply for asylum.

Trámites de audiencia en la Oficina de Asilo y Refugio

La Oficina de Asilo y Refugio ha comenzado a comunicar de manera sistemática el trámite de audiencia a un buen número de solicitantes de asilo colombianos. En la evacuación de dicho trámite el Servicio Jurídico de CEAR comprueba que en cada expediente se ha consultado presencialmente por funcionarios de la OAR en la Central de la Fiscalía General de la Nación y en la Dirección General de la Registraduría Nacional del Estado Civil la concordancia de los documentos aportados por los solicitantes de asilo con las bases de datos de dichos organismos. A nuestro entender esta práctica viola la normativa aplicable tanto en la forma como en el fondo ya que no se ha pedido a los interesados el consentimiento necesario para ceder sus datos a un tercero, consentimiento requerido por la normativa de protección de datos. Además, a CEAR le preocupa lo que consideramos es una clara y grave violación de la confidencialidad que puede suponer en una situación de alto riesgo a los solicitantes de asilo y sus familiares al ser muchas las fuentes que alertan de un alto grado de infiltración de los grupos armados, especialmente paramilitares, en las instituciones colombianas, en especial en la Fiscalía. A nuestro juicio esta práctica administrativa viola las conclusiones de ACNUR y la Directiva de Procedimiento, siendo contraria al espíritu de la Convención de Ginebra de 1951. Como ejemplo del incumplimiento de la naturaleza protectora intrínseca al procedimiento de asilo terminamos citando las palabras que recoge el folleto que se entrega a todo solicitante en el momento de su solicitud de asilo en nuestro país: "todo lo que se diga es confidencial. El gobierno de su país nunca será informado de que usted ha pedido asilo o de lo que cuente. Las personas que traten con usted (funcionarios, policías, intérpretes), están obligadas a mantener en secreto todo lo que diga".

Proceedings for hearings in the Asylum and Refuge Office

The Asylum and Refuge Office (Oficina de Asilo y Refugio, OAR) has started to systematically inform a considerable number of Colombian asylum seekers of their proceedings for hearings. In the undertaking of this stage of proceedings, CEAR's legal service has ascertained that in the case of each file, OAR officials personally consult the [Colombian] National General Attorney's central office (Fiscalía General de la Nación) and the General Directorate of the National Civil Status Register (Dirección General de la Registraduría Nacional del Estado Civil) to check whether the documents submitted by applicants are in agreement with the mentioned bodies' databases. As far as we understand, this practice violates the applicable legislation both in its form and its substance, as the interested parties have not been asked for the required consent to transmit their data to third parties, a consent that is required by data protection legislation. Moreover, CEAR is concerned by what we consider to be a clear and serious violation of confidentiality that may entail a situation of high risk for asylum seekers and their family members, as many sources warn of the high degree of infiltration by armed groups, particularly paramilitary ones, in Colombian institutions, especially the Attorney's Office. Our view is that this administrative practice contravenes the UNHCR conclusions and the Directive on Proceedings, running against the spirit of the 1951 Geneva Convention. As an example of the failure to comply with the intrinsic protective nature of asylum proceedings, we conclude by quoting the terms included in the leaflet handed to all applicants when they apply for asylum in our country: "anything that is said is confidential. The government of your country will never be informed that you have requested asylum or of what you have told. The people who deal with you (civil servants, police officers, interpreters) are obliged to keep anything you say secret".

[unofficial translation by Statewatch]

Source: Boletín Jurídico CEAR, June 2008


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