The Country of Origin Information Service (COIS) at the Home Office is the successor to the generally derided Country Information and Policy Unit (CIPU). CIPU reports were poorly researched and outright biased against asylum seekers, although many immigration judges mistakenly treated them as the whole truth. In 2004 the Immigration Advisory Service did an excellent report on CIPU. They checked every quote against the purported source. Often the source simply didn’t say anything resembling the alleged quote, or the first half of a sentence would be included but the qualifier omitted. For example, “The human rights situation in x country is generally good” would be quoted but the second half of the original sentence, “apart from for x, y and z minorities, who are subject to government persecution”, would not. Rather misleading, some might think.
CIPU was eventually broken up into an information section and a policy section. The information section was renamed COIS and became part of the (relatively) reputable and professional RDS within the Home Office, rather than remaining within what was then the Immigration and Nationality Directorate and is now UKBA.
In the last few years the Advisory Panel on Country Information (APCI) has done sterling work looking over COIS reports and the quality of the reports has improved dramatically. COIS undoubtedly sometimes get things wrong, and the last Afghanistan report was slated by the APCI, but generally things are much improved and the information is reliable and balanced.
Now, the information and policy arms are apparently to be reunited. All of the good work by COIS staff over the last few years is set to be undone. It should be clear to anyone that there is no way that policy and information can be combined without the quality and impartiality of the information being compromised. This is definitely a retrograde step.