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The use of interpretation services to address the communication challenges faced by Congolese asylum seekers at the refugee reception office in Cape Town
This research analysed the use of interpretation services to address the communication challenges faced by Congolese asylum seekers at the refugee reception office in Cape Town. It examined the language challenges of Congolese asylum seekers, the role of the interpreters in addressing these challenges and the perceptions of refugees and home affairs officials about the quality of services provided by interpreters. It also discussed the implications for the outcome of Congolese applications for asylum. This project was framed around Bell and Reiss’s theories of translation and the general communication model. Community interpreting and interpreting studies complimented these theories because all of them focus on the intricacies of interpreting messages and the implications for meaning making, especially in the case of oral accounts. The research design was a case study and its unit of analysis was a company called Zeenab, Remy, Gerald, and Buba (ZRGB) Interpretation, Translation and Social Services, which has for years been the main provider of interpretation services to the department of home affairs in Cape Town. Since this project was a case study, it adopted a qualitative approach and used qualitative methods such as interviews, observations, focus group discussions and document analysis to collect data from respondents. These methods were suitable for this project because they provided unrestricted space for Congolese refugees and home affairs officials to express their views about the interpretation services and the implications thereof. All interviews took place in Cape Town between June and July 2016. The duration of interviews ranged from 25-65 minutes and the total number of respondents was 18. The researcher used a thematic analysis approach to organise, analyse and interpret the data collected from participants. This process involved coding, defining and naming and penetrating themes, searching for multiple meanings embedded in the data. After interpreting the data, this research revealed firstly that the main challenge of Congolese asylum seekers was to communicate their experiences consistently and accurately in English language. Secondly, asylum seekers blamed the rejection of their applications for asylum on the poor quality of interpretation services provided by ZRGB. Thirdly, asylum seekers had different impressions of the role of interpreters in the refugee determination process. In terms of scholarly contributions, this study hopes to shed light on the communication challenges that francophone asylum seekers and refugees face during the application and interviewing process. In addition, it can contribute to the existing body of knowledge on the politics of asylum and the acquisition of refugee identity in post-apartheid South Africa.