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United Kingdom Asylum and Immigration Tribunal
You are here: BAILII >> Databases >> United Kingdom Asylum and Immigration Tribunal >> AA (Language diagnosis: use of interpreters) Somalia  UKAIT 00029 (25 March 2008)
Cite as:  UKAIT 29,  UKAIT 00029
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AA (Language diagnosis: use of interpreters) Somalia  UKAIT 00029
Date of hearing: 5 October 2007
Date Determination notified: 25 March 2008
|Secretary of State for the Home Department||RESPONDENT|
It is no part of an interpreter's function to report on the language or dialect used. The expertise needed to identify a language or dialect is not typically the expertise of an interpreter. In any event, an interpreter should not be in the position of giving, or being asked to give, evidence on a contested issue.
"The Appellant submits that it has long been custom and practice within the Asylum and Immigration Tribunal (and its forerunner, the Immigration Appeal Tribunal) that the language and/or dialect an Appellant is speaking can be established by arranging the appropriate interpreter for the Appeal Hearing and establishing, at the hearing, whether the Appellant can speak the language/dialect they claim to be able to speak. Thus, for example, it is clear that in KS (Minority Clans – Bajuni – Ability to speak Kabjuni) Somalia CG  UKIAT 00271, the Tribunal relied on information from the Court Interpreter to establish the extent of the Appellant's ability to speak Kibajuni (see paragraphs 8 and 45 of KS).
At the case management review hearing in this appeal, which was held on 11 April 2007, a Somali interpreter who spoke the Reer Hamar dialect was specifically requested in order that the Appellant be able to establish her fluency of this dialect at the substantive hearing.
At the beginning of the Substantive Appeal on 23rd April 2007 the Appellant's counsel raised the issue of the dialect spoken by the Appellant and requested that the Court Interpreter be asked to confirm that the Appellant was speaking the Reer Hamar dialect. The Court Interpreter refused point blank to either confirm or deny the dialect spoken by the Appellant. The Court Interpreter's position was that this was not part of his job. The Appellant's representative asked the Immigration Judge to intervene and to require the Court Interpreter to confirm or deny whether or not the Appellant was speaking the Reer Hamar dialect. The Immigration Judge refused to do this.
The Court Interpreter had been booked in order to speak the Reer Hamar dialect. He confirmed at the start of the hearing that he did indeed speak this dialect. The Appellant respectfully submits that his refusal (it is difficult to see how it could have been an inability) to confirm or deny whether the Appellant was speaking in the Reer Hamar dialect was wrong. The Appellant submits that the Immigration Judge erred by upholding the Court Interpreter's refusal. This constituted an error which led to unfairness to the Appellant.
As a consequence of the interpreter's refusal to confirm the Appellant's dialect and of the Immigration Judge's refusal to ask him to do so, the Appellant's representative requested that the interpreter supplied by the Appellant's solicitors, who was in attendance at Court, be called to comment on the Appellant's dialect. The interpreter was called Mr. Cali and his evidence is dealt with by the Immigration Judge at Paragraph 33 of his Determination, where he states:'Turning now to the evidence of Mr Cali; he attended the hearing in his capacity as a freelance Somali interpreter employed by the Appellant's solicitors to assist their counsel in taking instructions from the Appellant prior to the hearing. To that extent I find that Mr. Cali is hardly an independent witness. Furthermore his evidence was limited to expressing an opinion that the Appellant spoke the Reer Hamar dialect of Somali which he stated is only spoken by members of minority clans from the Mogadishu area. Having regard to the fact that Mr Cali is not an independent witness, the fact that there was no evidence whatsoever before me as to his expertise as a linguist, then I find that I cannot place any weight upon Mr Cali's evidence.'
The Appellant respectfully submits that the Immigration Judge's treatment of Mr Cali's evidence is unfair. Clearly, there was no evidence of Mr Cali's [expertise] as a linguist available because he was called at the lat minute following the surprising position taken by the Court Interpreter. Furthermore, it was wrong of the Immigration Judge to consider that Mr Cali was not independent. As the Immigration Judge notes, Mr Cali was a freelance interpreter employed by the Appellant's solicitors on this basis. The Immigration Judge has failed to explain how this means that he is not independent and his evidence cannot be trusted. Most interpreters employed by the Asylum and Immigration Tribunal are freelance operatives engaged by the AIT on a similar basis as Mr Cali was engaged by the Appellant's solicitors. It would be wrong to suggest that interpreters employed by the Court are not independent. It is consequently unfair to reject the evidence of Mr Cali largely on the unsubstantiated basis that he lacks independence. It is clear from Paragraph 33, quoted above, that the only two reasons the Immigration Judge rejected Mr Cali were because of his perceived lack of independence and because there was no evidence before the Immigration Judge as to his expertise as a linguist. Both of these allegations are unfair for the reasons given above.
The fact that there was no evidence before the Immigration Judge as to Mr Cali's [expertise] as a linguist and the fact that he was employed by the Appellant's solicitors as described by the Immigration Judge would have been clear to the Immigration Judge before Mr Cali was called to give evidence. The Immigration Judge does not rely on anything Mr Cali said in his evidence to undermine his credibility. Consequently, the Immigration Judge would have been aware of these defects in Mr Cali's evidence before he heard it. In these circumstances it is respectfully submitted that, particularly in view of what transpired previously at the hearing, it was unfair of the Immigration Judge not to bring this to the attention of the Appellant's representative who could have considered whether or not to seek an adjournment to obtain further or better evidence of the Appellant's linguistic abilities or to have requested that the case be reconvened with a different Court Interpreter.
Further, or alternatively, the Appellant submits that the Immigration Judge has given insufficient reasons for rejecting the evidence of Mr Cali. The Appellant submits that Mr Cali gave detailed evidence of the dialect spoken in Somalia, and Mogadishu in particular, and that this evidence was in accordance with the objective evidence, particularly the Somali Minorities Report of 2000.
The question of the dialect spoken by the Appellant is, according to case law and confirmed by the Home Office Operational Guidance Note, very important to the determination of ethnicity in Somali cases, if not determinative. The Immigration Judge has failed to make a finding on this key issue, despite the Appellant's strenuous attempts to establish that she speaks the Reer Hamar dialect. The Appellant submits that the Immigration Judge's failure to make a finding on this key issue renders his conclusions unsafe."
C M G OCKELTON