Culture and credibility: The assessment of asylum seekers’ statements

Asylum seekers typically have a different cultural background from the immigration officials interviewing and assessing their statements. The role of culture in eliciting and evaluating asylum seekers’ statements has remained largely unexplored. A new article, published by Gabi de Bruïne, Annelies Vredeveldt, and Peter J. van Koppen, addresses the intersection of memory and culture in the context of the asylum determination process. Drawing from the literature on eyewitness memory, which has so far largely been studied separately from credibility assessments in asylum procedures, the article integrates the academic literature on two subjects by discussing memory aspects prone to cultural variations through the lens of credibility assessments in the asylum determination procedure.

The article highlights the need for further research, given that most studies on memory have involved participants from Western, Educated, Industrialised, Rich, and Democratic (WEIRD) societies, potentially ignoring 88 per cent of the world population. More insight into cultural differences within memory and reporting will allow for the creation of culturally nuanced credibility assessment tools that better accommodate the majority of the world population. That would be crucial for the successful functioning of the system, and no less important, for the future of the applicant.

The latest publication is part of a larger collaborative research project of the Amsterdam Laboratory for Legal Psychology (ALLP) and the Center for International Criminal Justice (CICJ), funded by a ERC Starting Grant and led by Dr. Annelies Vredeveldt, looking into Eyewitness Memory in Cross-Cultural Contexts. As part of PhD candidate Gabi de Bruïne’s subproject which focuses on the asylum determination procedure, the article “Culture and credibility: the assessment of asylum seekers’ statements” was published in the academic journal Psychology, Crime & Law this month.

The article is published open access and can be read here.