Project

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Doing Credibility; The Construction of Credibility in Swiss Asylum Procedures

Applicant Eckert Julia
Number 149360
Funding scheme Project funding (Div. I-III)
Research institution Institut für Sozialanthropologie Philosophisch-historische Fakultät Universität Bern
Institution of higher education University of Berne - BE
Main discipline Ethnology
Start/End 01.02.2014 - 31.05.2017
Approved amount 527'518.00
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Keywords (5)

Asyl; Glaubwürdigkeit; vraisemblance; credibility; evidence

Lay Summary (German)

Lead
Das Forschungsprojekt untersucht den Prozess, in dem über die Glaubhaftigkeit von Asylgesuchen in der Schweiz entschieden wird.
Lay summary

Wird in der Schweiz ein Asylentscheid gefällt, entscheiden Beamte und RichterInnen nicht nur darüber, ob ein Asylsuchender der Flüchtlingsdefinition entspricht, sondern sie prüfen auch die Glaubhaftigkeit der Aussage des Asylsuchenden. Die meisten Gesuche werden mit der Begründung der mangelnden Glaubhaftigkeit von den Behörden abgelehnt. Das vorliegende Forschungsprojekt untersucht den Prozess, in dem über die Glaubhaftigkeit des Asylgesuches entschieden wird. 

Im Zentrum stehen die vier Hauptakteure im Asylverfahren: Asylsuchende, RechtsberaterInnen, Beamte, die im Bundesamt für Migration arbeiten, sowie RichterInnen des Bundesverwaltungsgerichts. Unter Berücksichtigung dieser vier Akteure analysiert das Projekt, wie Glaubhaftigkeit und Unglaubhaftigkeit definiert, und welche Bedeutungen diesen Konzepten zugeschrieben werden. Einerseits geht es also um die Wahrnehmung des Begriffs der Glaubhaftigkeit, andererseits untersucht das Projekt den Umgang der verschiedenen Akteure mit Glaubwürdigkeitskriterien. Dazu nimmt es auch den  „Kampf um Glaubwürdigkeit“ in den Blick, in dem die Akteure versuchen, ihre eigene (institutionelle) Glaubwürdigkeit zu verstärken.
Der Forschungsansatz dieses Projekts bringt neue Perspektiven in die Debatten über die Glaubhaftigkeitsprüfung im Asylverfahren, weil er nicht allein die Asylsuchenden im Blick hat, sondern auch die anderen Beteiligten berücksichtigt. Es werden staatliche wie auch nichtstaatliche, bürokratische wie auch nichtbürokratische Akteure untersucht und als handlungsfähige TeilnehmerInnen verstanden, die alle an der Entstehung und der Veränderung der Glaubwürdigkeitskriterien beteiligt sind.
Das Forschungsprojekt arbeitet mit dem Ansatz der multi-sited Ethnographie. Daten werden mittels Feldforschung, teilnehmender Beobachtung, Interviews und der Analyse geschriebener Dokumente gesammelt.

Direct link to Lay Summary Last update: 14.01.2014

Lay Summary (French)

Lead
En Suisse, lors de la prise de décision dans les procédures d’asile, les autorités et les juges ne décident pas seulement si un-e requérant-e d’asile répond à la définition de réfugié, mais ils évaluent aussi la vraisemblance de ses déclarations. Dans les faits, le manque de vraisemblance de la demande constitue la justification de la majorité des décisions négatives. C’est ce processus de prise de décision sur la vraisemblance des demandes d’asile qui est analysé dans ce projet de recherche.
Lay summary

 

La recherche se concentre sur quatre acteurs de la procédure d’asile: les requérant-e-s d’asile, les conseiller-ère-s juridiques, ainsi que les collaborateur-trice-s de l’Office fédéral des migrations (ODM) et les juges du Tribunal administratif fédéral (TAF). Le projet cherche à comprendre comment ces différents acteurs définissent la vraisemblance et le manque de vraisemblance; quelles significations sont données à ces concepts; et comment, dans leurs pratiques, la notion de vraisemblance est construite et utilisée. Outre l’intérêt porté aux perceptions et usages de la vraisemblance, le projet cherche également à analyser la «lutte pour la crédibilité» entre certains de ces acteurs qui cherchent à renforcer la crédibilité de leurs institutions.

Cette recherche amène de nouvelles perspectives dans les discussions sur la vraisemblance dans la procédure d’asile, car elle s’intéresse aussi bien aux requérant-e-s d’asile qu’aux autorités dans la construction sociale de la vraisemblance. Tous les acteurs sont en effet considérés comme possédant une certaine marge de manœuvre et contribuant (bien que de manière inégale) à la production et à la transformation des critères de vraisemblance. Acteurs étatiques et non étatiques, bureaucratiques ou non, sont donc pris ensemble pour étudier la production des catégories étatiques liées à l’évaluation de la vraisemblance.  

Le projet de recherche repose sur une approche ethnographique multi-sites. Les méthodes de travail utilisées sont la conduite d’entretiens, l’observation participante ainsi que la collecte et l’analyse de documents écrits.

 

 

Direct link to Lay Summary Last update: 14.01.2014

Lay Summary (English)

Lead
In deciding whether asylum seekers are granted asylum or not, immigration officers and judges in Switzerland as elsewhere must not only decide whether an asylum seeker fits the definition of a refugee. They must also assess the credibility of the asylum seeker’s statements. This research project analyses the assessment of credibility.
Lay summary

In deciding whether asylum seekers are granted asylum or not, immigration officers and judges in Switzerland as elsewhere must not only decide whether an asylum seeker fits the definition of a refugee. They must also assess the credibility of the asylum seeker’s statements. In fact, the majority of negative asylum decisions are based on the authorities attributing a lack of credibility to the claims. In this research project, it is precisely this assessment of credibility that is analysed. 

In this research project we focus on four of the main actors involved in the asylum procedures: asylum seekers, legal advisors, officers working for the Federal Office of Migration as well as judges and clerks in the Federal Administrative Tribunal. By looking at these different actors the project examines how credibility and the lack of credibility are defined, what meanings are ascribed to these concepts, and how credibility is practically constructed and used. Apart from studying these actors' perceptions of and dealings with credibility, the project also intends to analyse the “struggles over credibility” between them when striving to enhance their institution’s credibility. 
The approach of this research project is new to the debates on credibility assessment in asylum procedures in that it focuses on asylum seekers as well as asylum “makers” in the construction of credibility. Thus, all actors in this study are considered as participants with social agency, who contribute (even though unequally) to the generation and transformation of credibility criteria. Through this, state- and non-state actors, as well as bureaucrats and non-bureaucrats are brought together in the production of state categories regarding credibility assessment. The project relies on a multi-sited ethnographic approach. Fieldwork methods employed are interviews, participant observation and the collection of written documents. 

Direct link to Lay Summary Last update: 14.01.2014

Responsible applicant and co-applicants

Employees

Publications

Publication
Taking the „Just“ Decision. Caseworkers and their Communities of Interpretation in the Swiss Asylum Office.
Affolter Laura / Poertner Ephraim / Miaz Jonathan (2019), Taking the „Just“ Decision. Caseworkers and their Communities of Interpretation in the Swiss Asylum Office., in Gill Nick / Good Anthony (ed.), Palgrave, Cham, 263-283.
Der grösste Teil von [unserem] Job ist Unglaubhaftigkeit
AffolterLaura (2018), Der grösste Teil von [unserem] Job ist Unglaubhaftigkeit, in Terra Cognita, 32, 92-94.
Prise de décision en matière d'asile. Le régime de la suspicion.
AffolterLaura (2018), Prise de décision en matière d'asile. Le régime de la suspicion., in Vivre Ensemble, 169, xx.
Die Entstehung rechtlicher Fallgeschichten in einem Übersetzungsprozess: Die Rechtsvertretung asylsuchenden Personen in einem schweizerischen Hilfswerk
Fuchs Johanna (2017), Die Entstehung rechtlicher Fallgeschichten in einem Übersetzungsprozess: Die Rechtsvertretung asylsuchenden Personen in einem schweizerischen Hilfswerk, in Lahusen Christian / Schneider Stephanie (ed.), TRANSCRIPT VERLAG, Die Entstehung rechtlicher Fallgeschichten in einem Übersetzungsprozess: Die Rechtsvertretung asylsu, 195-222.
Contraints de vivre sous terre à Genève. Les exilés et la société civile face à l’accueil indigne
Del Biaggio Cristina, Rey Raphaël (2017), Contraints de vivre sous terre à Genève. Les exilés et la société civile face à l’accueil indigne, in Urbanités, (8), 1-16.
Asyl-Verwaltung kraft Wissen. Die Herstellung von Entscheidungswissen in einer Schweizer Asylbehörde.
Affolter Laura (2017), Asyl-Verwaltung kraft Wissen. Die Herstellung von Entscheidungswissen in einer Schweizer Asylbehörde., in Lahusen Christian / Schneider Stephanie (ed.), transcript, Bielefeld, 145-171.
Keeping Numbers Low in the Name of Fairness. Ethos and Ethics in a Swiss Asylum Administration.
Affolter Laura, Keeping Numbers Low in the Name of Fairness. Ethos and Ethics in a Swiss Asylum Administration., in Eckert Julia (ed.), transcript, Bielefeld.
The Bureaucratic Production of Difference
Eckert Julia (ed.), The Bureaucratic Production of Difference, transcript, Bielefeld.
The Office. Ethos and Ethics in Migration Bureaucracies.
EckertJulia, The Office. Ethos and Ethics in Migration Bureaucracies., in Eckert Julia (ed.), transcript, Bielefeld.

Collaboration

Group / person Country
Types of collaboration
University of Edinburgh, Anthony Good Great Britain and Northern Ireland (Europe)
- Publication
Université de Grenoble, Cristina Del Biaggio France (Europe)
- in-depth/constructive exchanges on approaches, methods or results
- Publication
University of Edinburgh, Tobias kelly Great Britain and Northern Ireland (Europe)
- in-depth/constructive exchanges on approaches, methods or results
- Publication
University of Exeter, Nick Gill Great Britain and Northern Ireland (Europe)
- Publication
University Neuchatel, Marion Frésia Switzerland (Europe)
- in-depth/constructive exchanges on approaches, methods or results
- Publication
University of Lausanne, Jonathan Miaz Switzerland (Europe)
- in-depth/constructive exchanges on approaches, methods or results
- Publication
University of Siegen, Christian Lahusen and Stephanie Schneider Germany (Europe)
- Publication
University of Zurich, Ephraim Poertner Switzerland (Europe)
- in-depth/constructive exchanges on approaches, methods or results
- Publication
Université de Neuchâtel, Christin Achermann Switzerland (Europe)
- in-depth/constructive exchanges on approaches, methods or results
- Publication
Centre de Droit des Migrations (CDM) Switzerland (Europe)
- in-depth/constructive exchanges on approaches, methods or results

Scientific events

Active participation

Title Type of contribution Title of article or contribution Date Place Persons involved
IMISCOE Conference, Panel "Who is a refugee? Exploring the boundaries of the refugee category" Talk given at a conference Acquiring an Institutional Habitus: The Shaping of Decision-Makers' Discretionary Practices in a Swiss Asylum Office. 02.07.2018 Barcelona, Spain Affolter Laura;
APAD Conference, Panel "The bureaucratization of asylum" Talk given at a conference The Normalcy of Digging Deep: Acquiring an Institutional Habitus in a Swiss Asylum Administration. 23.05.2018 Roskilde, Denmark Affolter Laura;
6emes Journees des doctorant-e-s du Centre de droit des migrations (CDM) Talk given at a conference Faire face au regime de Dublin : une analyse des resistances individuelles et collectives de demandeurs d’asile face a l’augmentation des renvois 24.11.2016 Muntelier-Löwenberg, Switzerland Rey Raphaël;
Summer School „The Political Anthropology of World Society: On Practices of Knowledge and Regulation” Talk given at a conference The Good Decision-Maker / The Unpredictability of Governance : the Case of Daniel / 21.08.2016 Indemini, Switzerland Rey Raphaël; Eckert Julia; Affolter Laura; Fuchs Johanna;
„Versprechungen des Rechts“, Panel „Anwendungsprozesse, Erfahrungswissen und Theorie“ Talk given at a conference Schwarz, weiss und ein bisschen grau. Die soziale Praxis von Recht im Schweizerischen Asylverfahren 09.11.2015 Berlin, Germany Affolter Laura;
„Ethos and Ethics in Migration Bureaucracies“ Talk given at a conference The Law and the People? The Bureaucratic Ethos of Fairness in Asylum Decision-Making 02.09.2015 Ueberstorf, Switzerland Eckert Julia; Affolter Laura;
37. DGS Kongress, Ad-hoc Gruppe „Asyl verwalten: Theoretische Perspektiven und empirische Befunde zur bürokratischen Bearbeitung eines gesellschaftlichen Problems“ Talk given at a conference "Es gibt kein Rezept für die Glaubhaftigkeitsprüfung". Die bürokratische Praxis im schweizerischen Asylverfahren 06.10.2014 Trier, Germany Affolter Laura;
„Tackling Asylum Proceedings from Below? Practices of Asylum Adjudication in Europe“ Talk given at a conference A Quest for “Truth”? Credibility Determination in Swiss Asylum Bureaucracies 18.09.2014 Ueberstorf, Switzerland Affolter Laura;
13. EASA Konferenz, Panel „Tracing Eligibilities: Moralities, Performances, Practices“ Talk given at a conference Deserving to be Believed in: Credibility Determination in Swiss Asylum Bureaucracies / The asylum procedure in Switzerland and everyday life 31.07.2014 Tallinn, Estonia Rey Raphaël; Eckert Julia; Affolter Laura; Fuchs Johanna;
Module "Liminality", Swiss Graduate Program in Anthropology Talk given at a conference Constructing asylum narratives in the Swiss procedure: practices and perspectives of asylum seekers 15.05.2014 La Sage, Switzerland Rey Raphaël;


Self-organised

Title Date Place
6emes Journees des doctorant-e-s du Centre de droit des migrations (CDM) 24.11.2016 Muntelier-Löwenberg, Switzerland
„Between Autonomy and Vulnerability: Perspectives on Migration“ 20.05.2016 Neuchâtel, Switzerland
5èmes Journées des doctorant-e-s du Centre de Droit des Migrations (CDM) 26.11.2015 Muntelier-Löwenberg, Switzerland
„Tackling Asylum Proceedings from Below? Practices of Asylum Adjudication in Europe“ 18.09.2014 Ueberstorf, Switzerland

Knowledge transfer events

Active participation

Title Type of contribution Date Place Persons involved
Internal training course AsyLex Talk 23.09.2018 Olten, Switzerland Affolter Laura;
Generalversammlung Luzerner Asylnetz Talk 26.06.2018 Luzern, Switzerland Affolter Laura;
Formation juridique continue de l’OSAR « La notion de réfugié », Talk 04.06.2014 Berne, Switzerland Rey Raphaël; Fuchs Johanna;


Communication with the public

Communication Title Media Place Year
New media (web, blogs, podcasts, news feeds etc.) "Viele Asylusuchende lügen" - Wirklich? Schweizerische Flüchtlingshilfe SFH, "Fakten statt Mythen" German-speaking Switzerland Western Switzerland 2018
Media relations: radio, television Glaubwürdig im Asylprozess (Rabe-Info, Interview mit Katrin Hiss) Radio Rabe German-speaking Switzerland 2017
Media relations: print media, online media Herkunft von Asylbewerbern: Lüge oder Wahrheit? (Interview mit Jessica King) Beobachter German-speaking Switzerland 2017
Media relations: print media, online media Crise migratoire ou crise des politiques européennes Vivre Ensemble Western Switzerland 2016
Talks/events/exhibitions La vraisemblance dans les procédures d’asile Western Switzerland German-speaking Switzerland 2015

Abstract

"Die Vorbringen des Gesuchstellers halten den Anforderungen an die Glaubwürdigkeit gemäss Art. 7 AslyG nicht stand, so dass ihre Asylrelevanz nicht geprüft werden muss. Demzufolge erfüllt der Gesuchsteller die Flüchtlingseigenschaft nicht, so dass das Asylgesuch abzulehnen ist“ (Negative asylum decision; English translation: The plea of the applicant does not meet the credibility requirements according to article 7 of the Swiss Asylum Act. Its relevance for asylum must therefore not be considered. Consequently, the applicant does not qualify as a refugee and his or her application must be rejected). This decision is a common one in Swiss asylum procedures, since approximately 80% of all negative first-instance decisions are based on the lack of credibility (oral statement by a legal practitioner of the Swiss Refugee Council). In deciding whether asylum seekers are granted asylum or not, immigration officers and judges must not only decide whether an asylum seeker fits the refugee definition but also assess the credibility of the asylum seeker’s statements. In this research project, credibility determination is our main focus. We look at it from a double perspective: On the one hand, we are interested in the evaluation of the credibility of asylum stories and on the other hand, in that of the different institutions involved in the asylum procedures. Thus, we pose the following research questions: (1) What criteria is used by the different actors in the asylum proceedings to determine the credibility of asylum stories?, (2) How is evidence constructed during the asylum procedures and how is it used to construct the credibility of asylum cases?, (3) How do the actors of our study mutually judge their group’s or institution's credibility and how do they try to enhance their own (or their institution's) credibility? In order to answer these questions, we look at the four main actors involved in the asylum procedures (asylum seekers, legal advisors, officers working for the Federal Office of Migration and judges as well as clerks in the Federal Administrative Tribunal) and the interactions between them through a multi-sited, ethnographic approach. Thus, the research questions are analysed in three different ethnographic “fields”: Subproject A is concerned with the state authorities, namely Federal Office of Migration and the Federal Administrative Tribunal, Subproject B with legal advisors and Subproject C with asylum seekers at different stages of the asylum procedure. The researchers will conduct interviews with all the actors mentioned above, analyse written first- and second-instance decisions, asylum appeals and the written records of asylum hearings and carry out participant observation in important interactional settings such as the asylum hearing and meetings between legal advisors and asylum seekers. Additionally, 10 asylum seekers will be “followed” in their “bureaucratic paths”. Our approach is new to the debates on credibility assessment in asylum procedures in that it focuses on asylum seekers as well as asylum “makers” in the construction of credibility. Thus, we consider all the actors in our study as participants with social agency, who contribute (even though unequally) to the generation and transformation of credibility criteria. Through this, we bring together state- and non-state actors, as well as bureaucrats and non-bureaucrats in the production of state categories regarding credibility assessment.
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