Accepted Paper:

Credibility assessment and construction of 'credible' asylum cases by legal advisors: the role of medical arguments  


Johanna Fuchs (University of Bern )

Paper short abstract:

This paper explores how legal advisors decide to take on an asylum case in order to defend it against the Swiss authorities. It examines how legal advisors, in interaction with asylum seekers and medical doctors, assess the credibility of an asylum case.

Paper long abstract:

In Switzerland, following a negative decision from the Federal Office for Migration, asylum seekers may submit an appeal to the Swiss Federal Administrative Court. Legal advice officers or lawyers can assist asylum seekers during the appellant procedure. However, this is not an automatism: Previous to constituting an appeal to the court - in order to convince the authorities about the reliability of the case and to prove the veritableness of persecution in the country of origin - legal officers decide if they are willing to take on the case of the applicant or not. As the majority of the negative decisions are based on the lack of credibility by the authorities, this criterion plays an important role in the daily work of legal advisors and influences their decision on whether they are taking on a case or not. Relying my analysis on empirical material, written documents (e.g. appeals, medical certificates) interviews and participant observation, I examine how legal officers, in interaction with asylum seekers and experts, define credibility and the lack of credibility and what meanings are ascribed to these concepts. My contribution aims to elaborate on the role of medical arguments regarding these concepts and how legal advisors and doctors interact in order to define and constitute a 'credible case'. Furthermore, I tend to show how legal advisors' and doctors' perception of and dealings with credibility may rub off on their own institutional and professional credibility.

Panel P045
Tracing eligibilities: moralities, performances, practices (EASA Network for Anthropology of Law and Rights)