The Texture of Narrative Dilemmas: qualitative study in front-line professionals working with asylum seekers in the UK

Abbas, Paaras; von Werthern, Martha; Katona, Cornelius; Woo, Yeree and Brady, Francesca. 2021. The Texture of Narrative Dilemmas: qualitative study in front-line professionals working with asylum seekers in the UK. The British Journal of Psychiatry, 45(1), pp. 8-14. ISSN 0007-1250 [Article]

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Abstract or Description

Asylum seekers are required to narrate past experiences to the UK Home Office, doctors, lawyers, and psychologists as part of their claims for international protection. The Home Office often cites perceived inconsistencies in asylum interviews as grounds for refusal of their claims. A number of processes affect asylum seekers’ abilities to narrate past experiences fully to the professionals interviewing them. The dilemmas around disclosure that asylum seekers face have received little attention to date.
To explore the perspectives of UK-based medico-legal report-writing doctors, lawyers and psychologists whose work involves eliciting narratives from asylum seekers on the processes that affect asylum seekers’ abilities to disclose sensitive personal information in interview settings.
Eighteen professionals participated in semi-structured interviews in individual or focus group settings, to discuss, from their perspectives of extensive collective professional experience, the narrative dilemmas experienced by asylum seekers with whom they have worked.
Professionals identified a number of processes that make disclosure of personal information difficult for asylum seekers. These included asylum seekers’ lack of trust towards professionals conducting the interview, unclear ideas around pertinence of information for interviewers, feelings of fear, shame and guilt related to suspicions around collusions between UK and their country-of-origin’s authorities, sexual trauma, and occasionally their own involvement or collusion in crimes against others.
Recommendations on how to improve the interview environment to encourage disclosure have important implications for future research and policy initiatives.

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Additional Information:

This work was supported by a research grant to the Helen Bamber Foundation from the Oak Foundation (Grant number: OCAY-15-286).

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4 March 2020Accepted
22 January 2021Published


Funding bodyFunder IDGrant Number
Oak FoundationUNSPECIFIEDOCAY-15-286

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Date Deposited:

24 Mar 2020 11:00

Last Modified:

09 Jul 2021 00:54

Peer Reviewed:

Yes, this version has been peer-reviewed.


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