Defining the role of the UK asylum interpreter: expectations, realities and training needs

Williamson, Adam James (2024) Defining the role of the UK asylum interpreter: expectations, realities and training needs. MPhil(R) thesis, University of Glasgow.

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Public service interpreting in the UK continues to be a highly deregulated sector, and nowhere more so than in the asylum context. This study aims to draw back the curtain on UK asylum interpreting in its host of different settings from solicitors’ practices to Home Office interviews to appeal hearings at the Immigration and Asylum Tribunal (IAT). I will examine the expectations of the linguists employed to work in the UK’s hostile and increasingly complex asylum system, with a particular focus on the Scottish context. In terms of methods, documentary analysis of the policies employed by the bodies that hire interpreters within the asylum process is carried out. Several interpreter codes of conduct are examined, as are published guidelines for Home Office staff and immigration judges. The study also draws on remote participant observation of asylum appeal hearings that took place in Glasgow and Belfast, as well as a total of 9 semi-structured interviews with people who had direct experience of the asylum system as asylum seekers, interpreters and service providers.

An overarching conclusion is that there is a systematic failure to acknowledge how crucial interpreting is in the asylum process, with each and every word an applicant uses being scrutinised in minute detail by the Home Office in an attempt to undermine the applicant’s credibility. Findings point to precarious employment practices for asylum interpreters that can lead to ethically compromising situations and conflicts of interest. A general lack of understanding of interpreting in this context as a task of complex linguistic and sociocultural mediation rather than one of mechanistic language transfer is identified. Additionally, a widespread lack of practical, useful guidelines on how to communicate through interpreters, particularly for those seeking asylum and refuge was found. The main training programmes currently on offer in the UK are also found to be deficient in terms of preparing interpreters to work in the asylum system. This thesis includes several practical recommendations regarding interpreting that are of particular relevance as the Scottish Government finalises the third iteration of its New Scots Refugee Integration Strategy.

Item Type: Thesis (MPhil(R))
Qualification Level: Masters
Subjects: L Education > LC Special aspects of education
Colleges/Schools: College of Social Sciences > School of Education
Supervisor's Name: Phipps, Professor Alison, Fisher, Dr. Dan and Ryan, Dr. Sadie
Date of Award: 2024
Depositing User: Theses Team
Unique ID: glathesis:2024-84082
Copyright: Copyright of this thesis is held by the author.
Date Deposited: 13 Feb 2024 10:25
Last Modified: 13 Feb 2024 10:25
Thesis DOI: 10.5525/gla.thesis.84082

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