4. Evaluating ’inner truth’ in asylum claims
Convenors: Valtteri Vähä-Savo, Tampere University; Johanna Hiitola, University of Oulu
Contact: valtteri.vaha-saho (at) tuni.fi
Session 4.1: Thursday 2.12.2021 at 13.00-15.00
Session 4.2: Friday 3.12.2021 at 12.30-14.30
Presentation order and abstracts:
SESSION 4.1 Thursday 13.00-15.00
‘The ultimate truth’ of Christian conversion. A case study
Erna Bodström: CEREN, University of Helsinki
Credibility assessment plays a key role in deciding on ‘the ultimate truth’ about an asylum claim. This ultimate truth means determining whether the asylum applicant a) is assessed to be telling the truth about their reasons for seeking asylum and b) whether they assessed to be in danger because of this reason. These two aspects are usually referred to as internal and external credibility assessment respectively. Essentially the assessment determines whether the applicant is granted asylum or not.
The current paper approaches credibility assessment through the concept of intertextuality. This is because the asylum process is inherently intertextual. That is, in practise asylum process materialises in various texts, including the interview record, the first-instance asylum decision, the appeal and the appeal body decisions. Each of these texts carry traces of the previous texts, including, excluding and transforming them to make a new text. Only together do the texts determine whether the applicant is granted asylum or not.
The paper utilises a case study of an asylum applicant who seeked asylum in Finland for the reason of religious conversion, that is giving up Islam and becoming a Christian. He was denied asylum multiple times and therefore also seeked asylum multiple times. Together, the various stages of his process as well as the country of origin information used in his case produced hundreds of pages of material. The current paper therefore uses intertextual analysis to examine these materials and traces the reasons and rationalisations of the first-instance decision-maker (Finnish Immigration Service) and the appeal bodies to answer the following research question: how is ‘the truth’ intertextually constructed throughout the asylum process? I write ‘the truth’ in quotation marks, as the administrative truth formed by the bodies can differ from the lived experience of the asylum seeker.
Through the analysis the paper shows the essential role the intertextual inclusions, exclusions and transformations of information, testimony and evidence play in the asylum process throughout the various decision making bodies. By doing so, the paper shows how ‘the ultimate truth’ is formed in the administrative process, that is, the truth accepted and confirmed unanimously by all the decision making bodies.
Queer asylum determinations: Preliminary findings on interviewing and decision-making patterns in Finland
Johanna Vanto & Anne Alvesalo-Kuusi: University of Turku; Hedayat Selim, Elvira Eilittä, Mia Helenelund, Pia Lindblad, Jan Antfolk, Julia Korkman & Elina Pirjatanniemi: Åbo Akademi University
Claims for international protection lodged by queer asylum-seekers are often described as being among the most complex cases for asylum officials to assess. As of the late 2010s, after high courts in several asylum countries banned ‘discretion reasoning’ (i.e., the expectation that asylum-seekers could conceal their sexual identity to avoid persecution in their home countries), more focus was turned towards evaluating the credibility of applicants’ sexual identity. This has led to increased evidentiary burdens for asylum-seekers, who must convince officials that their membership in a sexual minority is ‘genuine.’ Moreover, in the absence of expertise in matters related to sexual orientation and gender identity, officials’ assumptions about queer individuals may undermine the accuracy of their credibility assessments. Despite these potential pitfalls, the assessment of queer asylum cases in the Finnish context remains largely overlooked by research in the legal, social and behavioural sciences. Drawing on a subset of a sample of 218 asylum casefiles adjudicated in 2019-2020 and obtained from the Finnish Immigration Service, we present our analysis and preliminary findings regarding asylum officials’ interviewing and decision-making patterns in queer asylum determinations. We focus on asylum officials’ expected narratives as well as their main motivations for rejecting the credibility of individual asylum-seekers’ claims. We discuss the implications of our findings for asylum policy and practice, as well as for interdisciplinary research in this field.
SESSION 4.2 Friday 3.12.2021 at 12.30-14.30