Fatima, a 55-year-old teacher from Syria, felt forced to keep information back during her interview with the Danish Immigration Service in May 2013. She was rejected, and says the interpreter’s influence played a crucial role
By: Team New Times
Fatima feared her interpreter being Bashar al Assad’s supporter and kept information back during her interview.
How could the interpreter be involved?
I suspected him of being a supporter of Bashar Al Assad’s regime, which I fled from. As I was deadly frightened, I had to be cautious in presenting my case.
Why did you suspect him to be a supporter of Bashar Al Assad?
At the very beginning of the interview at the Immigration Service, we were sitting in the office around the table. My interpreter, a Syrian, switched on his mobile and I could see it’s background picture.
Accidentally or intentionally?
Intentionally. He was like turning it towards me. I was shocked. I stopped breathing.
What was the picture that upset you so much?
A picture of Bashar Al Assad, the current president of Syria and the biggest enemy of me and my family.
Did you react and complain to the Immigration Services officer?
I was thinking about it, but I was afraid of the consequences if I stopped the interview.
I was afraid of a possible long waiting time for a new interview, the interpreter’s potential negative impact on the further course of my case or not knowing whether the next interpreter would be worse. I didn’t know whether his real position was exclusively interpreter or police officer or both. You must know, it’s very painful to be a refugee. I feared the ordinary rustling of leaves. Who am I to protest? I am just a number in a big, unknown system. I felt alone against all the rest.
Unfortunately my doubt was confirmed at the interview break, when my interpreter and I were speaking alone.
How did your doubts become true?
In the break he started to ask me so many questions about my family and about my local area of Syria. And he assured me that it was unnecessary to flee from my local area where there are no clashes. He proved it by calling his friend in Damascus and then handing his mobile to me so I could convince myself by hearing the friend’s voice.
What did you feel at that moment?
That just made me sure not to trust anybody. To keep quiet and save my daughter and son.
How could your interview have an effect on your daughter’s and son’s security?
At that time, both my daughter and son were in prison, arrested by Assad’s army which is well known for their cruel treatment of their prisoners. A single word from my mouth could affect their life. If my words were transferred to the Syrian regime by this interpreter it could mean a bullet in my children’s hearts. So I decided not to mention many important facts.
Has your silence helped your children?
I think, indirectly, yes. They are alive and out of prison.
But your asylum request has been rejected. Do you feel as being sacrificed, your life for your children’s life?
No, as mother I am happy – as rejected asylum seeker I blame just one person.
Fatima’s rejection was changed by the Refugee Appeals Board after the interview. She is now granted asylum. Fatima is not her real name. Her real name is known to New Times.