How to prepare and conduct a good interview in order to ensure a sufficient amount of data for the expertise, from the expert’s point of view

Agnieszka Stec (Warsaw University, Poland)

The paper analyzes the conditions which have to be met for an interview to be successful, which is an important stage in the process of determining the applicant’s origin. Such interviews have to provide sufficient data to enable identification of the applicant’s place of socialization, which is necessary information for both repatriation and asylum procedures. The interviewer has to make the following steps before and during the interview:

  1. The first and very important preliminary step must include an analysis and verification of the entire information about the applicant available before the interview, which is received from the preliminary interview with the applicant. The expert should pay attention to any possible inconsistencies in this information. This can prevent some unexpected situations during the interview. At that moment, some ideas about the applicant, which build the general vision of the interview, are developed.
  2. The second step consists of the obligatory questions about the applicant’s personal data, which should open the interview. It is important to form those questions in such a way so as to get the greatest possible amount of information about the applicant. This information will be used by the expert as a basis for reconstructing the applicant’s biography in the chronological order. This moment of the interview is very important to win the applicant’s trust, which can pay off later, when the applicant will have to answer further, more difficult next questions.
  3. The third step should include detailed questions about all the places indicated by the applicant as his/her residences as well as questions concerning the knowledge about the country (-ies) where such places are located, its culture and everyday life. It is very important to adjust the questions individually to the applicant and to the special situation existing in the country (-ies) where the indicated places are located, as well. The expert should not ask about commonly know facts or about those which are not specific for one country. The interviewer should try to find something that could be known only by a person who really lived in the indicated places. Questions asked during the interview should help us form our subsequent opinion about the possible origin of the applicant. When we want to ask questions, we must think what kind of answer we will receive and whether we really need it to determine the place of the applicant’s socialization.
  4. It is very important to conduct the interview in the language declared by the applicant as his/her mother tongue. Nevertheless, the expert has to check the applicant’s command of all the languages reportedly known by the applicant as well as those spoken in all the countries where the applicant lived. In addition to the conversation, at this stage of the interview, the applicant should also be asked to translate some words and phrases from the language indicated by the applicant as his/her native tongue into the languages of all the countries where the applicant resided and vice versa. As a rule, such phrases and words should concern everyday life. The interviewer should also try to find some words which could be known only in the area indicated by the applicant as his/her place of residence; some local dialect words. The applicant’s language skills can reveal whether he/she really lived in the indicated places for the declared period of time.

Moreover, the expert should try to create a nice atmosphere during the interview, even when the applicant is not willing to collaborate and disturbs the expert. An attempt should also be made to answer the question what necessary competences the expert/interviewer must have. Judging from my experience, the expert should be a qualified linguist or philologist with extensive knowledge, which covers a broader scope than his/her major specialization (the entire political or geographical region and not just an area limited only to one country). The expert should know fluently more than one language spoken in a given political or geographical region. It is also important to have some idea about the languages spoken in the neighboring countries so as to have an opportunity to compare them, let alone dialects of a given language.

Letzte Änderung 24.11.2009

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