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Humanists UK provides testimonies of alleged bias against apostates by asylum case translators

Humanists UK has submitted case studies to the Independent Chief Inspector of Borders and Immigration (ICIBI) which is carrying out an investigation into the Home Office’s use of translators and interpreters, highlighting alleged incidents of bias against non-religious people accessing the asylum system. The ICIBI is an independent body that monitors and reports on the Home Office’s handling of its immigration and customs functions.

Humanists UK has been concerned that non-religious people claiming asylum in the UK, for being  persecuted because of their beliefs, might encounter prejudice when accessing language services at the Home Office. Specifically, that translators and interpreters could share negative views about apostates or those who have expressed blasphemous views that the asylum claimants had fled in their countries of origin. Such interpreters might consequently be unwilling to translate some of what such an asylum claimant says, or do so inaccurately, potentially affecting the outcome of asylum cases.

In response to the ICIBI’s call for evidence on problems with the Home Office’s language services, Humanists UK surveyed nearly 40 non-religious asylum claimants it has worked with, finding that around a quarter said they had directly experienced difficulties with prejudiced translators, finding independent translators willing to translate criticisms of religious beliefs, or, even among those who did not request such services, there was strong concern that they would have experienced this bias if they had used the Home Office’s translators.

One claimant stated ‘most non-religious asylum applicants who write against religions face difficulty finding a translator or interpreter they can trust with documents and personal safety.’ Whilst another reported that an interpreter had hung up the phone during an asylum interview when the claimant was asked about his decision to leave Islam.

Humanists UK’s Director of Public Affairs and Policy Richy Thompson commented, ‘We would be extremely concerned by any allegations of bias and prejudice by translators and interpreters working on asylum claims as that could affect the outcome of a non-religious person’s claim. We have highlighted this problem to the ICIBI and with officials working within the policy and decision-making oversight teams within the Home Office. We hope that by providing these first-hand testimonies, we can work with the Home Office to put more robust procedures in place to ensure that all asylum claimants regardless of religion or belief are able to have their claims assessed fairly.’


For further comment or information, please contact Humanists UK press manager Casey-Ann Seaniger at or phone 020 7324 3078 or 07393 344293.

Humanists UK is the national charity working on behalf of non-religious people. Powered by over 85,000 members and supporters, we advance free thinking and promote humanism to create a tolerant society where rational thinking and kindness prevail. We provide ceremonies, pastoral care, education, and support services benefitting over a million people every year and our campaigns advance humanist thinking on ethical issues, human rights, and equal treatment for all.

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