Translation and Asylum Claims: Matters of law, language and silence
Funded by: Arts and Humanities Research Council
Principal Investigator: Sarah Craig
Project Team: Prof Alison Phipps, Dr. Robert Gibb, Maria Fletcher, Katie Farrell
Adjudicating an asylum claim involves arriving at a conclusion about the credibility of an applicant's narrative of persecution, a narrative which is usually communicated through an interpreter. The quality of interpretation and translation provided has a potentially significant bearing on the reliability of decisions. In asylum procedures, the potential for miscommunication which can arise from interpretation is increased because the applicant recounting the narrative may, because of trauma or cultural distance, feel silenced by the process. In these processes language is understood as inherently stable in signfication. In disciplines engaged with the study of linguistics, however, the last thirty years have witnessed the move to an understanding of language as inherently unstable and where meaning may be arbitrary.
Law and language research and practice will be brought together in three international workshops. This series of workshops will enable a key group of participants to engage with these questions, draw on existing expertise and explore areas of overlap, consensus and interdisciplinarity which can lead to the development of protocols, practices and further research.
The overall aims of the workshops are to provide:
i) a clearer and more comprehensive analysis of the challenges posed by interpretation, language and translation in the asylum process;
ii) a fuller account of tools and practice in this area than is currently available;
iii) a sound theoretical understanding and evidence base from which to work towards practical solutions (e.g. guidelines) and recommendations;
iv) a unique engagement between linguistic & legal theory and asylum practice.
Workshop 1. Translating and Interpreting Protocols and Practices (12/10/2012)
Decisions about refugee status are based on the applicant's narrative of persecution and, inevitably, the asylum process relies heavily on translation and interpretation. The proposed activities will explore the practice protocols which exist in the UK and other countries in relation to translation and interpretation in asylum contexts, and how such protocols have been implemented and applied in practice. What problems have practitioners identified with the operation of such protocols? What are the procedural, legal, ethical and linguistic issues which arise?
This workshop is aimed at practitioners and applied linguists working in the field. Papers will be presented from different disciplines and a framework for will be outlined which will encourage discourse across disciplines. Time will be allowed to draw out differences between discipline-based understandings and identify key issues for next workshop.
Workshop 2. Tools and Problems: language analysis and the interview record (25/01/2013)
Tools used by asylum decision makers to address matters of language include the provision of an interview record and the use of linguistic analysis to determine nationality. However, some of these tools have been questioned, or shown to be unreliable and/or problematic (Eades et al 2003, Eades, 2005, Odofin et al, UNHCR March 2010). Where expert evidence is adduced to challenge the use of such tools, what kind of expertise is relied upon by decision makers, and how is it ranked?
This workshop is aimed at linguistics experts, administrative law academics and practitioners and institutional representatives (legal reps, UKBA, translators, Immigration Judges). Divergent issues and comparative aspects will be drawn out. The intention in this workshop is to build from a multi-disciplinary approach to an interdisciplinary approach.
Workshop 3. Miscommunication and Silence: problems and potential solutions (14/6/2013)
Shame and lack of trust may make applicants hesitant to disclose experiences such as rape and torture, (UNHCR, March 2010) and interviewers and translators should be competent to take account of the vulnerability of applicants (EU Asylum Procedures Directive Article 13(3)). Matters of language and silence thus present significant challenges for interpreters, translators and other professionals involved in all stages of the asylum process, as well as for legal representatives and decision-makers. This workshop will provide an opportunity for an in depth analysis of these challenges as experienced by a range of professionals in their everyday practice and for the development of potential solutions and guidance.
To find out more about this project, please contact Katie Farrell firstname.lastname@example.org or Sarah Craig Sarah.Craig@glasgow.ac.uk