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The objectives of the interview (1st part)

Many asylum seekers believe that the sincerity of their account is sufficient. However, the objective of the interview is not to validate or not the veracity of the asylum seeker's story, but to:


1) Verify the nationality of the asylum seeker or, if he has no nationality, his country of residence and his presence in the country on the dates alleged.


2) Identify the reason for his fear of persecution.


3) Determine if the reason for his fears corresponds to one of the five criteria set out in the Geneva Convention.

1) Check nationality


​ The PO must verify the nationality of the asylum seeker or, in the absence of nationality, his country of habitual residence. He must also ensure that he has stayed in his country on the dates alleged. 

Mrs A.

Mrs A., a Russian national, declares that she was persecuted in Moscow 

because of his Armenian ethnic origins. She speaks in Russian. I ask him :

– At what address did you live? What was your bus stop? What were the streets in the neighborhood called? 

Madame A. hesitates. She shakes her head. She seems unsettled.

– When I went out, I was always with my husband. I followed him. So, you know, street names, bus stops... 


geography quiz

The fact that Mrs A. speaks in Russian is not sufficient to deduce that she comes from Russia.


Indeed, many citizens from countries of the former Soviet bloc are perfectly bilingual. By asking geography questions, I am trying to verify that Madame A. did indeed reside in Moscow.


Knowledge of the national territory presumes the nationality or country of residence of the asylum seeker.

Mr B.

Mr. B., of Tamil origin, declares having fled the Sri Lankan ethnic conflict.

I ask him about the closing dates of the A9 motorway.

Mr. B. gives wrong answers. 


I give him a second chance:

“What are the dates of the ceasefires? »

Again, he is wrong. 

The idea that he was not present in Sri Lanka during the conflict crosses my mind. 

The history quiz

Faced with the failure of Mr. B. in the history quiz, I may be brought to 

think he is part of the Tamil diaspora having left the country since 

several years.


The probability that he was not present in his country during the ethnic conflict is very strong.

Knowledge of the chronology of a conflict or a major event 

assumes the presence of the asylum seeker in the country during this period.

Mrs C.

Madame C., of Tibetan origin, declares having fled the Republic 

People from China.

She speaks in the Tibetan language. 

I ask him to translate the words

“school” and “family book” in Chinese.

Madame C. refuses.

She doesn't understand why she has to do translation exercises. 


The quiz of vocabulary

To determine whether Mrs. C. comes from China (country where Tibetans are persecuted) or from India (country where they are not persecuted),

I give him a vocabulary test.


Knowledge of language presumes nationality or origin 

ethnicity of the asylum seeker.

During interviews, the quiz technique is preferred because it allows the collection of objective and verifiable information. 

However, these quizzes are often a source of misunderstandings. For example, to the question: “How many kilometers away is the prison? “, the asylum seeker most often answers: “I don’t know”, whereas he would be able to explain: “The prison is a two-day walk away.” Before answering, it is therefore important to understand the purpose of the questions. 


The perfect asylum seeker masters his speech acts.

There is no right or wrong answer. There are only successful or unsuccessful statements.


A statement is successful when there is a match

between the OP's question and the asylum seeker's answer.

The illocutionary function of the speech act

Specifying a figure or a number of kilometers is not in itself essential.

It's about giving an answer that makes sense. 

This is called the illocutionary function of the speech act. 

The objectives of the interview

2) Identify the reason for the fear of persecution

The OP seeks to know why the asylum seeker was persecuted or fears being persecuted in his country.

Mrs D.

Madame D., a Haitian national, declares to have been a victim 

of sexual assaults. She whispers:

- It was a Saturday. When I heard noise, it was too late. They had already entered the house. They were five...

– Did you know them?

– They wore balaclavas. I did not see their faces. 

- Do you suspect anyone?

- Nope.

"Why did they come after you?"

– I don't know. 

– Was this type of attack common in Port-au-Prince after the earthquake?

– You know, after the earthquake, it was chaos. Everyone was scared, especially the women...

- That's to say ?

– The bandits attacked single women.

– Was it your case?

– Yes, since the death of my husband, I lived alone. I had taken over the family business and, thank God, business was doing well. 

Why was she persecuted?

Asked about the reason for her attack, Mrs. D. replies that she does not know.

In view of my insistence, she ends up providing me with two essential pieces of information: her marital and financial situation in the post-earthquake context.


These two reasons, which were not obvious to her, constitute the heart of the persecutions suffered.

It often happens that the individual is not aware of belonging to a certain social group or does not link this element to fears of persecution. 

The perfect asylum seeker identifies the reason for his fears of persecution.
He explains how he is more vulnerable and more exposed to persecution
than another of his compatriots.

_visuel CSIMON-Convention02.jpg

The objectives of the interview

3) Determine if the reason for the fears corresponds to the Geneva Convention

An anecdote happened to me, recounted by Shumona Sinha in her novel “Stunning the Poor*”. While she was an interpreter at OFPRA, we received together Mr. E. In the chapter that she entitled “I will tell you the truth”, here is what she wrote:


That day, Lucia ended up telling him that there was really no point in continuing the interview, because she couldn't believe what he was saying. She offered him to think, to take a break. She added that he could change his story, that it was no big deal. But only, she had to be able to believe it. 

He was then questioned about his accommodation. Was it going well? And who was the gentleman who hosted him. (…) 

– Can I tell you the truth?

I couldn't believe my ears. (…) I leaned towards the man like an amateur fisherman towards a trout that has come to the surface of the water.

–  I am a truck driver. I was returning from the big city to my village. And on my way, I knocked down a man. I've been charged with murder. I ran away. 

The man seemed to me both relieved and worried. He feared what would happen next. 

–  So? I told you the truth.

Lucia explained the rest to him. It was routine. I knew it. The man didn't know. These people were made to tell the truth in order, in the end, to do nothing with it. It was a dead end. 


I remember exactly that interview. It was the first time that an asylum seeker agreed to break away from the text he had bought. He told us his story. I had questioned him at length. His story contained all the narrative elements that make up an excellent drama, but did not meet the criteria of the Geneva Convention or the framework of subsidiary protection.Despite the veracity of the facts, his asylum application was out of scope. 


While I was writing my rejection proposal, my colleague slipped me:  “The Geneva Convention obliges us to distinguish between misfortune and legally protected misfortune. » 

The perfect asylum seeker understands that the reason for his fears

of persecution corresponds to one of the criteria of the Geneva Convention. 

No matter how true his words are,

if his story does not fall within the provisions of the texts,

OFPRA considers his asylum application as out of scope. 

*Shumona Sinha, "Assompons les impoverished", editions of L'Olivier, 2011.

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