Prof. Nick Gill and Dr. Nicole Hoellerer (with input by Dr. Jessica Hambly) have presented a paper at the SOGICA Final conference ( 7-9 July 2020) – a virtual conference that has brought together researchers, practitioners, activist and asylum seekers from across the world to discuss SOGI asylum claims. The ASYFAIR team presented collected ethnographic data concerning SOGI claims at German asylum courts, and discussed subjective credibility assessments.
We had the opportunity to present our work in the panel Credibility I, chaired by Barry O’Leary (Wesley Gryk Solicitors LLP).
We want to thank the SOGICA team at the University of Sussex for organising the virtual conference. Please follow SOGICA for further information on SOGI asylum claims.
What is credibility and a credible narrative?
Dr. Nicole Hoellerer & Prof. Nick Gill (ASYFAIR), (Collaborator: Jessica Hambly)
Drawing on ethnographic observations at European asylum court hearings, the paper discusses how credibility and a “credible narrative” are used by European asylum judges in asylum determination, with a particular focus on SOGI cases.
For a long time, anthropologists criticised the Global Northern lens by which a credible narrative of one’s biography is characterised by a linear progression of time, critical self-reflection, and rationalisation. Similarly, European authorities involved in refugee determination – including asylum courts – are preoccupied with identifying incoherencies, discrepancies and “untruths”. Little attention is given to socio-cultural idiosyncrasies, such as cyclical progression of time: for example, those who are unable to coherently present a linear chronology of their biography are dismissed as “non-credible”, and thus not entitled to refugee protection in Europe. Similarly, asylum seekers who base their claim on sexual orientation may often be dismissed for not fitting into the Global Northern perception of what it means to be LGBTQI+, and our research has shown that SOGI claims are often reduced to sexual activity and public displays of one’s sexual orientation, as well as the ability to “critically reflect” on the persecution SOGI claimants may face in the their country of origin. However, our research puts into question the judges’ assessment and perception of “credible narratives” that would merit refugee protection in Europe, and we attempt to shed light on the problematic use of credibility in SOGI claims that is assessed by Global Northern standards and definitions.
Keywords: asylum courts; asylum adjudication; credibility; conversion, religion