Communicating credibly in refugee status determination: How beliefs about language can affect decision-making, by Dr.Laura Smith-Khan (University of Technology Sydney)

About the lecture

To access protection as a refugee, asylum seekers must pass through demanding interview and application procedures to convince migration officials that they and their claims for protection are credible and trustworthy. Communication is an essential, yet highly complex and demanding, element of these processes. – While asylum authorities highlight the many measures they have taken to ensure procedural fairness, including accommodating cultural and linguistic diversity, a closer look uncovers ongoing challenges.

This presentation shares research findings on language and credibility in Australian asylum procedures, focusing on a recent appeal decision from the Federal Court of Australia (FCA). It draws on sociolinguistic scholarship to critically compare the original decision-maker’s approach with the approach taken by the FCA judge.

In doing so the presentation identifies and challenges problematic beliefs about language on which credibility-based rejections sometimes rely. It argues that the FCA decision provides an example of better practice, demonstrating that approaches reflecting sociolinguistic understandings of language allow for a fairer assessment of credibility. It concludes that incorporating an awareness of sociolinguistics could thus positively affect asylum decision-making.

Laura Smith-Khan

Dr Laura Smith-Khan is a Chancellor’s Research Fellow in the Faculty of Law, University of Technology Sydney, and until the end of 2023 is a visiting researcher in the Department of Translation, Interpreting and Communication, at Ghent University, Belgium.

Her research is focused on the participation of minoritized groups in legal settings, especially migration processes. She has tertiary qualifications in both law and linguistics and has been admitted to practice as a lawyer in Australia.

Practical information
  • Public lecture by Laura Smith-Khan 
  • 24 November 2023, 12.30 - 2 p.m.
  • UAntwerpen Stadscampus, Room KS.204
  • Kattenstraat 10