Friday, October 7, 2011

Lost in Translation - Interpreter Almost Causes Deportation

In a classic case of being “lost in translation” an Iranian refugee fell prey to the latest language snafu at the Immigration and Refugee Board (IRB) during a refugee hearing that almost got him deported due to multiple translation errors by an interpreter.

Ali Zaree is an anti-government activist that fled Iran and claimed refugee protection in Canada after authorities came to his home. In his two hour hearing, more than 40 translation errors were made in questions, answers, key words and dates.

“Even the applicant, who speaks no French and understands very little English, noticed that her English was not very good,” wrote Justice Luc Martineau.

For example, when Mr. Zaree said: “I wanted to be completely sure about what party I am active for and then I really accepted from the bottom of my heart that they are,” the interpreter instead said: “I wasn’t prepared to… to work with this party and I wanted to know better about this party… And when I get my heart that this party is the kind of party that I thought.”

“This is an important issue,” said Annie Bélanger, Mr. Zaree’s lawyer. “I have complained about translation problems many, many times. I have written to the IRB about many problems they have with their language interpreting. It puts everyone in a very difficult situation.”

Robert Gervais, a spokesman for the board defended the IRB’s record by pointing out that the IRB has the largest foreign-language interpreter program in Canada with 1,200 interpretation contractors accredited in 267 languages and dialects and that all interpreters are tested before accreditation.

“The board takes seriously the importance of high-quality interpretation in the holding of fair proceedings. The board takes every reasonable measure to ensure that interpretation is held to the highest quality standards,” said Gervais.

Justice Martineau ultimately overturned the IRB’s decision and Mr. Zaree is going to be provided a new hearing.

This was not the first time the IRB had a translation error case. Just this summer a woman that was also on the verge of deportation to her native Kenya for providing incoherent and evasive testimony was later revealed that the Swahili translator had “butchered” the translation.

In another case a refugee claim was delayed for years because a qualified Kusai translator could not be found— apparently long enough for the claimant to learn English well enough to proceed without a translator.

These cases only highlight the importance and need of accurate translations and competent interpreters, especially in situations involving foreign refugees.

*Source: National Post

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