av Tina Cambier-Langeveld (2016)

Review by Gabriela Nechvátalová

Cambier-Langeveld gives better understanding of how the process of verification of asylum seekers’ claimed background works in her paper named Language analysis in the asylum procedure: a specification of the task in practice. The author focuses on caseloads in Netherlands and presents the procedures as they occur in the Dutch government agency OCILA. In the introduction (Ch.1) the author stresses that the language analysis procedures differ between countries and that the OCILA’s approach towards the language analysis presented in the paper is just the one used in Netherlands.

Cambier-Langeveld is well aware of diversity of the asylum procedures in other countries and comprehensively describes the working method of the OCILA, which is based on cooperation between supervising linguists and language analysts (Ch. 2). The second chapter also shows what the focus of these co-workers is. The supervising linguists are responsible for collecting information about the specific language and its varieties. It could be said that have a more general linguistic expertise. The language analysts are native speakers of the relevant language and their task consists of more specific language analysis. The author describes how they are linguistically trained and tested. In this chapter the reader is also informed about the difference between a Language Analysis for the Determination of Origin LADO and Reath’s (2004) Language Analysis in the Asylum Procedure shortened to the LAAP. The last named analysis is the one commonly used in the Dutch asylum procedures and therefore this paper deals with this method.

In the third chapter the description of collecting all information to facilitate the LAAP is presented. A few steps precede the verification and compilation of the language profile of the asylum seeker. During the first steps the background of the asylum seekers are mapped. The OCILA is not able to help those who e.g. moved as children from one country to another, as they would not be suited for the language analysis LAAP to verify the claimed background. This rather comprehensive part of the paper raises a question about how often they are unable to perform a language analysis on such asylum seekers and where they instead are sent to. Since it could be presumed that the asylum seekers coming from regions of war moved several times during their childhood, the number of those that are not suited for the LAAP could be relatively high.

The penultimate chapter (4) deals with recurring patterns that can be identified, sometimes more or less predictable, when a specific country of origin is claimed. She demonstrates these variabilities of the procedures on three countries the OCILA commonly deals with; Sierre Leone, Nigeria and Iraq. These patterns help to specify what knowledge would be required from both the supervising linguists and the language analysts in the specific procedure. The writer stresses the training and testing of the linguistic analysts throughout the paper and also describes what is required of them. This gives the reader an idea of how sensitive this topic is and leads to a question about the qualifications of these linguistic analysts.

The concluding chapter (5) provides very well structured conclusions and she believes that she gives some transparency and clarifications of the language analysis procedures performed on the asylum seekers at the OCILA.

Forensic linguistics belongs to a relatively new field of linguistics. Asylum legal proceedings are one of the topics forensic linguistics deal with. The amount of refugees seeking asylum in Europe has rapidly increased the work of migration agencies such as the OCILA during the last years and therefore it could be expected that the studies and articles on the topic of how countries deal with language analysis on an international level is welcomed. I believe that the knowledge sharing among the European countries could lead to an improvement of the procedures across Europe.

The paper deals with a descriptive study where the goal is to present the working process of the OCILA. The writer successfully managed to narrow the focus of the paper and achieved the goal set in the introduction.

The future studies on this topic could deal with language analysis in the asylum procedure of other countries and thereafter they could be compared. Learning from each others’ systems could lead to improvement of the practical guidelines.

Literature Review:

Cambier-Langeveld, Tina. 2016. Language analysis in the asylum procedure: a specification of the task in practice. International Journal of Speech Language and the Law, 1/23, 25-41.
Reath, Anne. 2004. Language analysis in the context of the asylum process: procedures, validity, and consequences. Language Assessment Quarterly, 1/4, 209–233. http://dx.doi.org/10.1207/s15434311laq0104_2.