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Thursday, 26 May 2022

Language 'barrier' for refugee given translator who couldn't speak Ukrainian


26 May 2022

Language 'barrier' for refugee given translator who couldn't speak Ukrainian

A Ukrainian journalist who fled Kyiv for Manchester says her mother was provided with a translator who spoke Russian, but not Ukrainian. Maria Romanenko's mum Tetiania came to the UK last month after being granted a visa, but on applying for the Universal Credit benefit, she received a shock. Maria, 29, said: "I heard my mum really struggling on the phone because she was talking to this Russian translator who was ignoring the fact that she was Ukrainian and pronouncing and spelling her name in Russian even though the Ukrainian spelling of her name is different. She looked really distressed. "I found out later that the DWP didn't have a Ukrainian interpreter. She was left mortified by the experience". Maria said her mother's mood had been "killed" by the experience and she didn't want to do anything that day. "It's very insensitive," she said. "There is this stereotype that Ukrainian and Russian are the same language. "It's wrong to say the languages are interchangeable and that a Ukrainian person wouldn't be offended by it." […]

In a statement, the DWP said they are mindful of the trauma many Ukrainians arriving in the UK have faced.

The statement read: "Our language services supplier has increased linguist resource significantly to deal with an upturn in Ukrainian language requirements for DWP customers and claimants can also give consent for others, such as friends or family members, to speak to us on their behalf.

"It is not our policy to provide a Russian speaking linguist in response to a request for a Ukrainian linguist.

"We apologise for the misunderstanding in this case and the distress caused."

Maria said her mum is struggling, adding: "She has never had to deal with the British system before so she needs a lot of support and I think instances like this really don't help. It just leaves her traumatised for a long time".

PQ: 26 May 2022


Asylum: Rwanda

Home Office written question – answered on 26th May 2022.

The Bishop of Southwark Bishop

To ask Her Majesty's Government, in respect of paragraph 9.1.2 of the Memorandum of Understanding with the government of Rwanda for an asylum partnership arrangement signed in Kigali on 13 April, what equivalent standard applies in Rwanda for the Home Office requirement that interpreters are members of the Institute of Translating and Interpreting, The Chartered Institute of Linguists, or if with a company, then the latter is a member of the Association of Translation Companies.

Baroness Williams of Trafford The Minister of State, Home Department

The Government of Rwanda will process asylum claims in line with its obligations under the Refugee Convention and Rwandan law, both in terms of the provision of translators where needed and access to legal assistance. While Rwanda will accept responsibility for the relocated individuals and processing them under their asylum process, the UK is providing funding to support asylum processing and wider support costs. This includes safe and clean accommodation, food, healthcare and amenities. They will have full access to translators and will be able to access legal support to appeal decisions in Rwanda’s courts. The independent Monitoring Committee will monitor the entire relocation process from the beginning including the initial screening to relocation and settlement in Rwanda.

Wednesday, 25 May 2022

Use of interpreters a necessary expense in unequal system


25 May 2022

Use of interpreters a necessary expense in unequal system

[…] To be fair to Judge Walsh, her controlled anger at hearing the circumstances of the assault is entirely understandable. Casual violence, usually committed under the influence of alcohol, is a cultural phenomenon in this society. Innocent victims like fast-food workers should be entitled to go to work unafraid of what their shift might bring. But her comments about interpreters were selective, to say the least. It is also the case that interpreters are not required when people come to this country to prop up the low-paid sector and without whom the economy might shudder to a halt. Interpreters are not required for the legions of foreign nationals who ensure that the health service at every level continues to function. Neither are interpreters required when the same workers hand over their tax euros to the State and generally contribute to the fashioning of the kind of multicultural society that enriches all aspects of life in this country. Requiring an interpreter to be fully cognisant of proceedings which could result in a term of imprisonment is surely not too much to ask and, to be fair, neither is it ever denied. But it would seem that Judge Walsh is of the opinion that “they” don’t really need one, and are hiding behind the delay and drawn-out hearing that flow from employing an interpreter. So how many of those in need of language assistance does she deem to be acting the maggot in this respect? In all likelihood, there are a few who play the system in this respect, just as there are a few who will play the system by any means at their disposal, particularly to delay or frustrate the dreaded day of judgement. There are also others who might, with some difficulty, manage to interpret for themselves what is going on. But is that good enough if they are, for instance, involved in proceedings that might find them guilty of a criminal offence and possibly result in imprisonment? There are  also, however, a large cohort who simply do not have any command of the English language, and in a country in which nearly 13% of residents are non-Irish born as of April 2021. The judge quite obviously and correctly wants to guard the public purse, but some costs are necessary. 

Last year, according to the Courts Service, the cost of interpreters was €1.5m for attendance in 9,216 cases. That is a drop in the ocean of legal costs that are weighing down the whole system. Just this week, it was announced that plans to tackle ballooning legal costs were once more being delayed. The civil law system, as observed by former chief justice Frank Clarke, is so costly that it is “all but moving beyond the resources of all but a few”.

So, while it is commendable that Judge Walsh is keeping an eye on the public purse, interpreters — and the work they perform to ensure that all are equal before the law — is cheap for the price compared to what is spent elsewhere in a very unequal system.

Tuesday, 24 May 2022

Judge 'sick' of defendants seeking court translators: 'No need when they go buy hooch’


24 May 2022

Judge 'sick' of defendants seeking court translators: 'No need when they go buy hooch’

A Judge has been strongly criticised for saying she was “sick to the back teeth” of defendants looking for interpreters to assist them in court proceedings when they have been living in Ireland for years.

The remarks by Miriam Walsh, a District Court judge, have been described as “reckless and unhelpful” by the Irish Network Against Racism (INAR), which said they underlined the need for specialist training for members of the judiciary.

They came in a case in which a foreign national living in Ireland for the past five years sought the assistance of an interpreter when he appeared in court on assault charges.

The 24-year-old man had pleaded guilty to assaulting two people in a takeaway restaurant and threatening, abusive and insulting behaviour while drunk.

Judge Walsh noted that interpreter costs were funded by the taxpayer and said: “They have no need for an interpreter when they go to buy their hooch. They don’t need assistance when they’re signing on for social welfare.”

She continued: “While he might have very little recollection of what happened, his two victims have.

“He’s been living in Ireland for the past five years and he wants an interpreter.

“He didn’t need an interpreter with him when he went to buy his drink, or when he goes shopping. They know more English than we know ourselves.

“I’m sick to the back teeth of people hiding behind interpreters. He beat the sugar out of two people who were just doing their job that night.” […]


Wednesday, 4 May 2022

"interpreter was not available"


4 May 2022

[…] She had pleaded not guilty on December 22 and the trial was due to take place on April 28, but has had to be adjourned again as a Romanian interpreter was not available. […]

Tuesday, 3 May 2022

"no Turkish interpreter turned up at court"


3 May 2022

The victim of the notorious Drypool Bridge rapist has been left "extremely distressed" after the jailing of her attacker was delayed because no Turkish interpreter turned up at court. A mix-up in booking an interpreter meant that convicted sex offender Tamer Eren could not be sentenced at Hull Crown Court at because the defence needed to ensure that he understood the complex issues surrounding the potential danger that he posed to the public. Efforts by his barrister to speak to him in "pidgin English" had failed because he claimed that he did not understand what she was saying. […] In court, after it became apparent that Eren could not be sentenced because no interpreter was present, Judge Sophie McKone said: "I am very sorry to say that there is no interpreter. One tried to be sourced but, I'm afraid, there isn't one. I know that's incredibly disappointing." Prosecutor Jeremy Evans said that the victim had taken time off work to attend court for the hearing only to find that the case could not be concluded. "She is extremely distressed," he said. "It's weighing slightly heavily on my shoulders, I have to say." Judge McKone said: "I completely understand that." She added that she believed that there was a shortage of interpreters and that the Covid-19 pandemic had played a part in how they were allocated for court cases. "It's not particularly helpful," said Judge McKone. The chances of getting an interpreter were greater over a video link than face to face but it was preferable if efforts could be made to get one to attend court in person.

The reason why an interpreter was needed for the case was that the issues involved in deciding Eren's level of dangerousness needed to be explained to him for legal reasons so that he understood them. Defence barrister Michele Stuart-Lofthouse said: "I tried to speak to him in pidgin English this morning but he kept saying he didn't understand."

Thursday, 31 March 2022

Criminal court statistics quarterly: October to December 2021


31 March 2022

Criminal court statistics quarterly: October to December 2021



"the interpreter that was ordered has not attended"


31st March 2022

A Celtic midfielder had his dangerous driving trial postponed today as he did not have an interpreter. […]

Edward Targowski QC, defending, said: “There is a difficulty this morning as the Hebrew interpreter that was ordered has not attended and there is no other interpreter present.

“The motion is that the case should be adjourned.”

Sheriff Paul Reid replied: “If that’s the case, then so be it.”

Thursday, 17 March 2022

Calls for interpreters to become legal requirement for NHS providers


24 March 2022

Calls for interpreters to become legal requirement for NHS providers

Health watchdogs are calling for interpreters to be made a legal requirement for all healthcare settings after a survey exposed worrying gaps in the service.

As part of national research, Healthwatch Norfolk quizzed people with English as their second language about their experiences of accessing healthcare in the county.

The study found a number of concerning difficulties felt by these people as they attempted to use of health services in the region.

Among them was a Russian woman who felt she could not ask the right questions and a Romanian man who said he "never" received interpretation at his GP.

Participants also raised concerns that they were forced to enlist the help of friends or neighbours to interpret for them - meaning sharing intimate, personal details about medical conditions.

As a result of the findings, bosses at the watchdog are calling for interpreters to be made a legal requirement in all healthcare settings and for a co-ordinated translation service to be set up across all levels of health and social care.

Alex Stewart, chief executive of Healthwatch Norfolk, said: "This report does not make comfortable reading, especially set against the context of the imminent arrival of refugees from Ukraine.

"We have heard from patients who are having to share intimate medical details with members of their community as the only means of being able to communicate with their doctor, as well as general concerns about interpreter access.

"This is a big hurdle towards offering equal healthcare for all.

"People's language and nationality should not be a barrier to getting help. Putting the requirement for translation in law will help ensure people will get the care they need - regardless of their nationality.

"There is also the wide-ranging issue which we come across regularly of different departments and areas of health and social care not talking to each other.

"As we move towards greater integration, this is the ideal time to have a system that flags up individual patient needs and ensures they are met at every level of their healthcare journey.

"The days of asking a friend or neighbour to translate intimate and personal medical information must end."

Case studies

A Russian woman living in Norfolk told the survey: "I have regular consultations every three months and the conversation is very short and usually the same.

"Sometimes I feel like they treat you as if you are in a slaughterhouse. One comes, one goes.

"I do not feel I am in safe hands but I have no other options.

"Although my appointments are routine, sometimes I may have questions that I want to ask, but I cannot because I wouldn't know how to say it in English - so I keep quiet."

A Romanian man who also participated, added: "At the GP surgery, we never receive an interpreter. At the hospital, we do manage to have one all the time. Even over the phone we get an interpreter."


Tuesday, 15 March 2022

Gaps in language support create barriers to accessing justice and rehabilitation, new research finds


15 March 2022 

Gaps in language support create barriers to accessing justice and rehabilitation, new research finds

A new report, Language barriers in the criminal justice system, carried out by Victim Support, the Institute for Crime & Justice Policy Research (ICPR), the Centre for Justice Innovation and funded by The Bell Foundation, found victims who speak English as a second or additional language (ESL) often struggled to communicate important information to law enforcement and were not given the language support they needed during crucial encounters with the criminal justice system.

In one example, an alleged perpetrator who spoke English as a first language was able to interrupt conversations between the victim and police, causing confusion, and resulting in the victim being mistakenly arrested for the crime she was trying to report. Victim Support say this is a particularly concerning experience amongst the ESL victims it supports.

The right to free language support when reporting a crime or being interviewed by the police is stipulated in the Victim’s Code of Practice – which sets out how victims should be treated during interactions with the criminal justice system. However, the research found this right is not always being upheld. […]


Report: https://www.bell-foundation.org.uk/app/uploads/2022/03/Language-barriers-in-the-criminal-justice-system.pdf