Different in the same way? Language, diversity, and refugee credibility

Laura Smith-Khan*

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

15 Citations (Scopus)


There is a growing awareness of the challenges associated with communicating and decision making in the intercultural setting of refugee status determination processes. However, the way institutions conceptualize diversity has significant implications for how accommodating these processes will actually be of diversity, including in credibility assessments - a key component of many asylum regimes. This article aims to explore how Australian guidance on credibility for refugee review decision makers discursively presents diversity, and the impacts this has on decisions in which asylum seekers' credibility is a central concern. With reference to institutional guidelines, it identifies how applicants for asylum use the issue of diversity when seeking to overcome credibility issues, and how decision makers respond to this. The article argues that, far from fairly accommodating all the diverse participants who must navigate these procedures, institutional discourse on diversity can create obstacles for applicants when it comes to maintaining or re-establishing their credibility. It finds that this is due to clashes between the way the merits review tribunal understands diversity, and the way it is conceptualized and presented by applicants when explaining their experiences and motivations, and when challenging structural and communicative barriers threatening their credibility. It shows that decision makers and applicants are constructed as different types of people, with the latter assumed to be affected by, and inextricably tied to, their social and cultural difference, while the former are assumed to represent a 'normal' or neutral way of being and thinking.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)389-416
Number of pages28
JournalInternational Journal of Refugee Law
Issue number3
Publication statusPublished - 1 Oct 2017


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