TOPIC OF THE MONTH: What is a Substantive Asylum Interview?

A Substantive Asylum interview is a detailed interview with the UK Home Office where the asylum seeker will be asked many questions as to why he cannot return to his home country and why he wants to live in the UK. It is a chance for the asylum seeker to put his case before the Home Office and establish a valid reason to seek asylum in the UK. It should not be confused with the initial “screening” interview, this is quite detailed and can sometimes go on for many hours.

What is the role of an interpreter in a Substantive Asylum Interview?

Often, the asylum seeker will be a Non-English Speaker or a Limited English Speaker. An interpreter plays a crucial role in bridging the language gap between the Home Office and the Asylum Seeker. The Interpreter interprets all that is said between the Home Office and the Asylum Seeker in English and the Target Language accordingly.

What skills does the interpreter need?

This must be done very precisely. There can be no additions or omissions. Simply being fluent in both languages is not enough. There are many factors at play here. Firstly, there is a vast and sometimes technical vocabulary, and the interpreter must know the meanings of the terms used along with the appropriate translations in the target language. Secondly, there are cultural nuances, idioms, proverbs, phrases which may not have an exact equivalent in both languages and knowledge of these nuances on both sides is a must. Lastly, this can be an emotional process for the asylum seeker and the interpreter must make sure to convey what is being said with the correct tone of voice so that nothing is lost in translation, all the while keeping a professional approach.


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