top of page

Don't sound like a liar


If trust is an element of interview success, it is intimately linked to mistrust. The fear of being cheated and the weariness of lying are constant among POs. This is why the most difficult exercise for the asylum seeker is to circumvent the myth of the “lying refugee”.


Over lunch, colleagues discuss their morning interviews.

- It was lie upon lie.

– Let me guess… a Bangladeshi? 

- Yes, they are all liars!


According to Cécile Rousseau and Patricia Foxen, the myth of the "lying refugee" is based on the belief that an asylum seeker should not lie. If he borrows from a story, if he shows contradictions or if he omits details, the asylum seeker is perceived as a liar. Seen as intentional speech and charged with a negative moral connotation, lying evokes deception and impossible trust*. 


It is therefore important for the asylum seeker to get ahead of what could appear to be a lie in the eyes of the OP. This exercise is all the more necessary as the representation of a lying individual quickly slips into that of a lying people, generating negative stereotypes about certain nationalities.

*Cécile Rousseau and Patricia Foxen, The myth of the lying refugee: an essential lie? psychiatr. 2006

Mr. r.

Mr. R. claims to have been persecuted by the police in his country.

“The cops said I had to pay them a bribe before Christmas or they'd throw me in jail.

–  When did they tell you that?

– They came to my house on December 25.

– The police come to your house on Christmas Day and demand that you give them money immediately?

–  In Armenia, December 25 is an ordinary day. We celebrate Christmas on January 6. 

The lie: the result of a cultural bias

In France, Christmas being celebrated on December 25, I wrongly thought that it was the same in Armenia. If I had not pointed out this “inconsistency”, Mr. R. might not have had the opportunity to dispel this misunderstanding and my cultural bias would have induced suspicion around his statements.

Mr. r.

Mr R. continues:

– When the police saw my sixteen year old daughter, they threatened to 

kidnap her to make her work in their boss' club.

– Their boss? The police commissioner?

– No, they were not part of the police. They were armed civilians assigned to protect a politician. 

Lie or lexical inaccuracy?

This time, the misunderstanding between Mr. R. and me is based on the word “policeman” which he uses instead of the term “private militia”.

This is not a lie, strictly speaking, but rather a lexical inaccuracy on his part.

Mrs S.

Asked about her journey in exile, Madame S. insists:

– I arrived in France by car.

– You have not transited through other countries?

– No, the route was direct so far. I traveled in a black Mercedes.


unspeakable reality

If it is very unlikely that Mrs S. crossed the Mediterranean in a "black Mercedes", this lie hides an unspeakable reality. 

The psychologist Marie-Caroline Saglio-Yatzimirsky explains that the lie can come “when it was not possible to be silent, when the asylum seeker was unable to assert his right to silence. Being obliged to say the unspeakable, to specify what only presents itself, psychically, in a state of confusion, provokes discourse strategies that do not stand up to the test of factual truth*. » 

Thus, lying can be an unconscious defense mechanism to preserve one's psychic integrity or “a subjective arrangement that allows one to survive guilt. » 


Lying can also be a rational response to administrative nonsense. Like Madame Q., a Mongolian national who claimed to be Chinese. His lie about his nationality allowed him to benefit from accommodation in a hostel.


The perfect asylum seeker circumvents the image of the "lying refugee". 


The perfect asylum seeker understands that cultural bias, lexical inaccuracy, distortion of reality can amount to intentional lies. 

If it is impossible for him to say the unspeakable, the perfect asylum seeker explains to the OP how his question makes him uncomfortable instead of cobbled together an answer that will be considered a lie tainting the rest of his statements.

*Marie-Caroline Saglio-Yatzimirsky, The voice of those who cry, Meeting with asylum seekers, Albin Michel, 2018

bottom of page