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New Training Guide to Credibility Assessment in RSD

October 16, 2013

The Hungarian Helsinki Committee has published a cutting edge guide to credibility assessment in refugee cases, called Credibility Assessment in Asylum Procedures. I’m a co-author, so I know this may sound self-serving, but this is now probably the state of the art in capturing best practices in one of the hardest and high stakes challenges in RSD. Doubts about credibility probably lead to more rejections of refugee claims than any other issue, but often have a very thin basis. And if the adjudicator doubts someone who is actually telling the truth, a person in danger of persecution will be put in harms way.

UNHCR consulted extensively on the training manual, which follow close on the heals of UNHCR’s report about credibility assessment in Europe, which is one of the best reports on the subject to date. (And I didn’t co-author that report, so this compliment is not self-serving).

One Comment
  1. Christian Matheis permalink
    October 18, 2013 10:07 pm

    Thank you for sharing your recent work, I found it accessible and will likely make reference to it in a current research project on justifiable criteria for evaluating asylum policies and practices as moral/immoral, versus merely expedient (or as under-justified administrative duties).

    If you have some time, I would appreciate your thoughts on a critique of administrative and procedural emphasis on credibility. I have two concerns:

    1) Modern justifications for granting asylum tend to refer explicitly to moral and ethical (“humanitarian”) obligations. However, despite the moral/ethical motives, nearly all policies and administrative practices refer only to mere administrative expediency, and not to humanitarian concerns. Why does a nation grant asylum? We grant asylum for moral humanitarian reasons. How does a nation go about granting asylum? We go about granting asylum as an administrative practice generally un-informed by corresponding moral/ethical humanitarian guidelines other than, perhaps, risk-reduction, avoiding the imposition of immediate harm to the lives people seeking refuge, and perhaps some other basic considerations. Overall, we find little or no similar regulatory moral criteria available for evaluating the practices of people administering/enforcing asylum procedures. Nations may have criteria for evaluating politically expediency but, insofar as I can tell, nations have no similarly weighted (taken seriously) operative criteria for evaluating the morality/ethics of their practices.

    2) Emphasis on evaluating credibility of people seeking asylum may misrepresent or, more precisely, over-evaluate “credibility” as an important factor as compared to other factors. Taking into consideration the contemporary conditions of people seeking refuge worldwide, we do better to acknowledge their circumstances as the product of random conditions. Overwhelmingly, living as displaced (or stateless or what have you) while seeking asylum turns out far more influenced by random factors than by anything states have prepared to control. For instance, whether or not a person seeking refuge works incredibly hard or with casual interest matters little when you take into account the broad array of random factors that condition the lives of most people in such conditions. By the time an asylum-granting nation evaluates the credibility of an asylum seeker, they have only appeared at the evaluation process more by random chance than by anything having to do with their credibility. As it turns out, credibility merely seems to offer administrative cultures a procedural guide, but not a realistic evaluation of the overall circumstances facing people who seek refuge. By presenting credibility out of the context of the greater facts of random chance — again, something no state currently seems to have any plan or procedure for addressing — misrepresents credibility as if administrative agencies have identified a reasonable means of bringing moderation and predictability to what we do not want to admit: chaos, precarity, and vulnerability for millions of people, and growing.

    I look forward to your reply.

    Christian Matheis

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