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Is There a Right to Untranslatability? Asylum, Evidence and the Listening State

In: Tilburg Law Review
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This article focuses on Refugee Status Determination (rsd) procedures, in order to understand the relationships among language, translation / interpreting, evidentiary assessment, and what we call the ‘listening state’. Legal systems have only recently begun to consider whether adjudicative processes ought to take place in multiple languages concurrently, or whether the ideal procedure is to monolingualize evidence first, and then assess it accordingly. Because of this ambivalence, asylum applicants are often left in the ‘zone of uncertainty’ between monolingualism and multilingualism. Their experiences and testimonies become subject to an ‘epistemic anxiety’ only infrequently seen in other areas of adjudication. We therefore ask whether asylum applicants ought to enjoy a ‘right to untranslatability’, taking account of the State's responsibility to cooperate actively with them or whether the burden ought to remain with the applicant to achieve credibility in the language of the respective jurisdiction, through interpretation and translation.

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