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.
This 18 month project, therefore, aims to develop an interdisciplinary understanding and theoretical analysis of language and silence in the asylum interview process across jurisdictions in order to work towards practical solutions and recommendations.