Genuine Improvement or Paying Lip Service? Conquering the Communication Complexities in Protection Assessments

Migration Australia Journal, Vol. 2, 2012

Sydney Law School Research Paper No. 13/30

16 Pages Posted: 10 Apr 2013 Last revised: 21 Jun 2013

See all articles by Laura Smith-Khan

Laura Smith-Khan

The University of Sydney Law School

Date Written: April 9, 2013

Abstract

As a party to the 1951 UN Convention Relating to the Status Refugees and its 1967 Protocol, Australia has protection obligations to those people found to meet the Convention definition of a refugee. However, to be successful, applicants often face a variety of barriers related to their ability to communicate their claims. Applicants and decision makers rarely share the same first language. Even where an interpreter is available, linguistic and cultural misunderstandings and the demands of efficiency have the potential to impact on an applicant’s ability to effectively and accurately present their case and may undermine their credibility.

Given the importance of reaching correct decisions where applicants potentially face danger to their lives, it is crucial that communication issues are understood and addressed. This paper will explore existing international and domestic literature, case law and Refugee Review Tribunal policy to identify potential issues related to communication that have the potential to undermine protection assessments. It will evaluate whether existing laws and practice are sufficient to address these and offer suggestions on ways forward.

Keywords: cross-cultural communication, refugee status determination, interpreters, fair hearing, forensic linguistics, language analysis

JEL Classification: K10, K30

Suggested Citation

Smith-Khan, Laura, Genuine Improvement or Paying Lip Service? Conquering the Communication Complexities in Protection Assessments (April 9, 2013). Migration Australia Journal, Vol. 2, 2012; Sydney Law School Research Paper No. 13/30. Available at SSRN: https://ssrn.com/abstract=2247790

Laura Smith-Khan (Contact Author)

The University of Sydney Law School ( email )

New Law Building, F10
The University of Sydney
Sydney, NSW 2006
Australia

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