Of forged documents and lack of written evidence: tracing eligibility in Rohingya asylum cases
Judith Beyer (University of Konstanz)
Paper short abstract:
The paper discusses the difficulties of tracing eligibility in Rohingya asylum cases in the UK. It pays attention to the collaborative role of country of origin expertise and explores the possibility of moral decision-making by anthropologists who are engaged in this legal arena.
Paper long abstract:
In order to successfully seek asylum in the UK, a person must match the eligibility requirements as a refugee spelled out by the 1951 United Nations Convention Relating to the Status of Refugees. The first requirement is that the person must have left the country (s)he is a national of, or, if (s)he is stateless, the country (s)he usually lives in. (S)he must also be unable to go back to this country because (s)he fears persecution; this persecution must be because of the person's ethnicity, religion, nationality, political opinion, or membership of a particular social group. Eligibility is measured on a case-to-case basis and immigration officers and legal caseworkers grapple with the interpretation of written and oral evidence provided by the person seeking asylum, in order to determine whether (s)he meets these requirements. The paper investigates the particularities of Rohingya asylum cases in first-tier tribunals in the UK. Rohingya are among the most persecuted stateless people worldwide and rarely possess documents that could prove their eligibility for refugee protection and consequentially asylum. The paper discusses the difficulties of tracing eligibility in the absence of written documentation, paying particular attention to the collaborative role of anthropological country of origin expertise whose 'intimate knowledge' is being sought. The paper also investigates the possibility of moral decision-making by anthropologists who are engaged in this legal arena and who have a chance to inform judicial understandings of crucial categories such as 'ethnicity' or 'nationality' whose interpretation often determine the outcome of a case.
Tracing eligibilities: moralities, performances, practices (EASA Network for Anthropology of Law and Rights)