28th June 2020
‘It wasn’t an interview – it was an interrogation’: How asylum seekers are made to feel ‘like criminals’ during Home Office questioning
[…] In other cases, asylum seekers spoke of male interpreters being allocated when a female interpreter had been requested, or allocation of an interpreter who spoke the incorrect dialect or poor English, making it more difficult for them to explain their account fully to the caseworker.
One woman, Sara, told the researchers: “I requested for a female interpreter and female caseworker, but both were male ... Since I had [a] male interpreter, I couldn’t concentrate on the interview. I was just thinking of the interpreter ... I told [the caseworker], ‘I can’t share everything.’ They said, ‘Okay, that’s fine.’”
Ahmad, from the Middle East, meanwhile describes having to explain being tortured for freedom of expression in his home country through an interpreter who he said couldn’t speak a high standard of English.
“Imagine trying to explain that there had been a massacre, and your translator having to search for the appropriate word on Google,” he says. “I can speak some English, and when I heard the interpreter translating my words wrong, I would try to speak for myself, but the interviewer kept on telling me to answer in Arabic for the translator.
“I tried to explain that I needed to speak for myself as the interpreter was not saying what I was saying, but I was silenced. Worse yet, between the agonising misinterpretations – they didn’t even get to the bottom of my story.”
Ahmad was initially refused asylum, but was granted on appeal. He has now completed a master’s and plans to become a pharmacist.
He adds: “My application was denied because of the issues with my interpreter. When I saw what the Home Office thought my story was, it was completely wrong. The interpreter had mistranslated my story into a different version of the truth.” […]