Graphic: Flower Linnea

Project: Asylum interviews in South Africa and Sweden: Experiences, interpretations, and negotiations

This project seeks to investigate and compare the asylum procedure in two countries, South Africa and Sweden. In focus are questions about how the asylum interview process is perceived, negotiated and handled by the key actors in the interview: asylum seekers, interpreters, legal representatives and state officials.

Facts about the project

Project manager
Kristina Gustafsson
Other project members
Lisa Ottosson, Gothenburg University and Linnaeus University, Pineteh, Angu, Pretoria University, South Africa
Participating organizations
Linnaeus University, Pretoria University, South Africa
The Crafoord Foundation
1 February 2020–31 December 2023
Social work (Department of Social work, Faculty of Social Sciences)
Research group
Social work and migration

More about the project

This project seeks to investigate the asylum procedure in two countries, South Africa and Sweden. The focus of this project is the individual asylum interview, where the oral account of the applicant plays a key role in determining the legitimacy of each case. This entails narrating a consistent, reliable and credible account. In both countries, the interview is supported by interpreting services if the applicant cannot speak English or Swedish. The aim of the interview is to establish the identity of the asylum seeker and to assess if he/she has “well-founded fear of persecution” as defined in the Refugee convention or other legitimate reasons for asylum.

Previous research shows that the asylum interview is a complex and fragile situation and that there is a wide range of conditions that those involved have to deal with; e. g. difficulties in telling traumatic memories in a coherent manner, translation problems, unqualified interpreters and administrators, lack of transparency in the asylum procedure, lack of gender awareness, long time intervals of waiting during investigation etc. These are just a few examples of complications that make it difficult to get a legally secure asylum process. One point of departure may be to count such uncertainty to the benefit of the asylum seeker during the investigation. It requires, however, an awareness of them and that the parties involved relate to them.

With this comparative study we will gain more knowledge about how this process work and how those involved experience and handle their own involvement in interaction with others. The study follows an ethnographic design where the data is gathered from asylum seekers, interpreters, legal representatives and state officials in the two contexts through individual in depth interviews and observations. The results can lay ground for professional training and reflection for legal representatives, state officials and public service interpreting.

The project is part of the research in the research group Social work and migration and in Linnaeus University Centre for Concurrences in Colonial and Postcolonial Studies