LANGUAGE TESTING OF ASYLUM SEEKERS Prof. Peter L. Patrick Dept. of Language & Linguistics and Human Rights Centre University of Essex 17 Sept 2011 Language Day Conference for Teachers Outline of the talk Asylum a social and human rights problem Thus, a problem for governments A possible linguistic solution but, does it work? What do we know about languages? So, who is a language expert? Involvement of the linguistics profession
What can actually be achieved? Please ask Questions at ANY POINT Pressure to Manage Asylum Flow Government concern for borders, control over population, spread of conflict, economic selfishness of Haves, the desire to regulate economic migration, leads to Attempt to manage/reduce flow of asylum seekers, Selectively discriminate the categories & outcomes. Search for way to serve these interests leads to (among many other trends, policies, procedures) a range of gate-keeping devices
Gate-keeping to Manage AS Flow Gate-keeping mechanisms employed by govts. to assess claims of origin, weed out false ones Performed in context of general governmental and public disbelief or hostility to immigration & refugees UKBA culture of hostility Eg, belief most are economically motivated as opposed to motivated by well-founded fear of being persecuted Bureaucratic pressures of cost, time, policy, caseload; judged on efficiency, quantity (& results...), perception .
Effort to draft in the sciences to perform GK tasks What evidence have we got? An asylum seeker who lacks documents presents two main types of evidence:
Her body Medical/physical evidence Her story Linguistic evidence Incl. all interviews, recordings, statements, texts in process How does one assess such linguistic evidence? What factors influence its production and use? Who is qualified to perform assessment? Who does so? What do RSD stakeholders need to know in order to commission, evaluate & reliably use valid evidence?
Types of Gate-Keeping Physical: Fingerprints: Social/linguistic: Incl. LADO -- DNA: Use of Gate-keeping Tools
Tools for interpreting/ascribing identity, including selective equation of language w/national identity in order to assess AS claims of origin, confirm true ones, and weed out false ones. Language assessment of asylum seekers: LADO (Language Analysis for Determination of Origin) (focus may be national, regional or ethnic origin) Motivating assumption seems plausible to laypeople: Language reflects Citizenship Linguistic Passport But: How valid and reliable is it, scientifically?
Who performs LADO for Govts.? Varies widely from one jurisdiction to another Mediterranean nations do not use it: Spain, France, Italy, Greece Swiss, Germans/Austria use (mostly) independent academic experts Dutch BLT have own analysts, but buy from commercial agencies too UK, Australia, Austria, Belgium, Denmark, Ireland, Norway, Sweden have all used commercial analysis firms, e.g.
Eqvator (formerly) Skandinavisk Sprkanalysis (=Sprakab) Verified Swedish bureau spun off company in 1990s sold expertise back to government, then other EU governments, then further afield Firms compete re contracts: business pressure on product offered Employ few linguists (w/BA, MA qualifications) but many analysts (most NENS) who conduct LADO cases w/supervision by linguists Who is unqualified to perform LADO? : Non-linguist language professionals Spoken-word interpreters or translators of written word
Students of foreign languages at university/elsewhere Typically no linguistic analytic or comparative training Rarely any formal training in exotic/unwritten languages, hence no standards exist for knowledge of such languages Native speakers of exotic or un(der)-studied languages May be trained, but little/no linguistics, rarely do research
Any university degree-level study of language usually = literary not scientific, text not speech, no comparative scientific base Such persons can be classed as NENS, Non-Expert Native Speakers rather than expert linguists in view of (Shuy 2009) the definition of a linguist as a scholar who is highly trained and deeply involved in the scientific study of language Language analysis requires expertise in Linguistics Scientific, comparative study of language systems Structure of sounds, words, grammar,
meaning Study the range of human languages to discover: What elements are necessary/possible in human language? In which ways can they be organized into systems? How language changes, is learned, come in contact, disappear How speakers manipulate system/elements for What Linguists Do and Are
Analyse elements & structures of recorded speech data Identify them as organised into recognized systems languages/dialects described in the scientific literature Familiar w/contact processes between languages (not random, but according to empirically-studied principles) Professional training means postgraduate specialization in accredited institution by research-active scholars...
Experts w/knowledge based in literature, own research on 1 or more languages (besides native ones, usually)... Contribute to scientific knowledge: present research at open conferences, publications reviewed by peers, etc. What is Sociolinguistics? Comparative study of speech communities, linguistic practices, and social ecologies of language Sociolinguists HR practitioners, interpreters, lawyers and these professionals, of course, are not usually linguists
Sociolinguists professionally involved w/ issues such as language endangerment, esp. preservation/revitalization language planning, at academic, govt/local/NGO levels forensic, clinical, and other institution-based linguistics What Languages are Involved? Linguistics studies all languages c. 6,900 in world
234 European languages: English, French, German etc. 2,100 African: Niger-Congo (1,500), Afro-Asiatic (350) 30% of languages, 12% of speakers, avg. <350,000/lang. 2,300 Asian: Sino-Tibetan (450), Austronesian (1,200) 3% of worlds languages, 26% of speakers, avg. 6.6 million
33% of languages, 60% of speakers, avg. 1.5 million/lang. Largest: Chinese (1.2b), Spanish, English (330m), Arabic LADO: Somali (13m), Pashto (9.7), Tigrinya (5.7), Rohingya (1.5) What Languages are Involved? Linguistics studies all languages c. 6,900 in world 234 European languages: English, French, German etc. 2,100 African: Niger-Congo (1,500), Afro-Asiatic (350)
30% of languages, 12% of speakers, avg. <350,000/lang. 2,300 Asian: Sino-Tibetan (450), Austronesian (1,200) 3% of worlds languages, 26% of speakers, avg. 6.6 million 33% of languages, 60% of speakers, avg. 1.5 million/lang. Largest: Chinese (1.2b), Spanish, English (330m), Arabic LADO: Somali (13m), Pashto (9.7), Tigrinya (5.7), Rohingya (1.5) Which languages relevant to LADO?
LADO: usually smaller, regional/ethnic dialects Often spoken across borders, not just within them E.g. minority clans in Somalia (Reer-Hamar, Ashraf) E.g. Mandingo: Senegal, Mali, Guinea, S. Leone, Liberia
Often unwritten for most speakers til very recently Many unstudied, or little detail known Some Next Steps Develop international scientific agreement over key issues Involve colleagues and public by raising basic science issues Convince UKIAT (via courts) to rely only on qualified expertise, by
Unifying the standards with (civil and) criminal requirements, Thus making bad science less common and acceptable in court Press commercial applications to raise/adopt scientific standards Innovate methods/technology to lower costs of good science Develop secure, scientific research base against which expertise can be established, by commissioning new applied research Expand reference database to focus on refugee-producing areas Contact Info My Email: [email protected] Homepage: http://privatewww.essex.ac.uk/~patrickp
Dept. of Language & Linguistics: www.essex.ac.uk/linguistics Human Rights Centre: www.essex.ac.uk/human_rights_centre 2004 Guidelines for best practice 2004: Guidelines for use of language analysis in relation to questions of national origin in asylum cases (Lang Nat Origin Group)
Main principles include: 19 coauthors/signers from Africa, Europe, Australia, USA 17 PhDs, over half with 1st-hand forensic experience in RSD context Published in 2 peer-reviewed linguistic journals, UNHCR RefWorld LADO must be done by qualified linguists proof of expertise Caution in rendering opinions degree of certainty Knowledge of native speakers expertise of linguists Linguists to determine/advise on data quality for LADO
Other issues: cross-border, language mixing, 2nd-language LADO... Now cited in courts from UK to Pacific, influences govt. practices
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