Why Refugees and Asylum Seekers Need Access to Legal Interpreters

Why Refugees and Asylum Seekers Need Access to Legal Interpreters
April 15, 2022

The worldwide refugee population has more than doubled in only a decade. By the end of  2019, over 30 million people had fled their due to conflict or . And while countries around the world are working together to help, millions still face a maze of legal requirements as they seek a permanent home.

To make matters worse, language barriers pose a major challenge when it comes to getting assistance. That means legal interpreters play an essential role in the  process for many. But before we dive into the benefits of legal interpreting, let’s get clear on some terminology.

Refugees vs. Asylum Seekers

Both refugees and asylum seekers are fleeing their country of origin due to a fear of persecution because of their:

  • Race
  • Religion
  • Membership in a social group
  • Or political beliefs


However, there is a key legal distinction between the two groups.

To be classified as a refugee, someone must apply for refugee status with an official entity, such as a government or United National Refugee Agency. Then they typically need to wait abroad until their application is accepted. Since the process can take years, refugees often flee to neighboring countries and reside in refugee camps while they wait.

On the other hand, an asylum seeker applies for protection once they arrive in the country of destination. They can typically apply regardless of how they arrived or immigration status. If their case is approved, they will receive a notice for a hearing or interview to determine if they can remain in the country. But again, the appointment may not be for months or years in the future.

The Role of Legal Interpreters

If someone who doesn’t speak the files for refugee or asylum status, they’ll typically need the assistance of a legal . Although legal staff at organizations or government agencies can help, they’re no replacement for a professional legal interpreter. Here’s why.

When it comes to the application process, accuracy is of the utmost importance. Even a minor error on a form or in an applicant’s statement can result in rejection. And unlike bilingual employees or bilingual third-parties, a professional interpreter has been trained to meet this high-standard of accuracy.

Now, given that refugees and asylum seekers are fleeing to safety, many have experienced trauma. Recounting those experiences is often difficult and an applicant may struggle to provide sufficient details or use euphemisms to describe what happened. When that occurs, the interpreter may ask the applicant to clarify a statement to ensure they interpret it correctly.

The legal interpreter also serves as a neutral third-party. They are neither an advocate for the applicant nor a representative of a government entity. This is important because it ensures that the information provided has not been altered to sway a decision. It may also make an applicant feel more comfortable because the legal interpreter is solely there to facilitate .

How INGCO Can Help

As you can see, a legal interpreter can make the difference between someone receiving refugee or asylum status or being denied. At INGCO International, our network of legal interpreters can assist you in-person, over-the-phone, or via video remote. Whether you need an interpreter for a local or international assignment, we’ll work with you to place the most qualified interpreter for your needs.

Want to learn more about our legal interpreting services? Contact us today!