British authorities have been hiring Swedish language company Sprakab in order to determine whether a person seeking asylum in England is telling the truth. But the use of these language analysts is now being sharply criticized in the highest court in Britain. The Swedish Migration Board however, continues to partner with the company. Two asylum seekers from Somalia are now getting their cases tried in England. When the British authorities hired language analysts from Sprakab, they said the Somalians’ stories weren’t credible and that their dialect “with certainty” is not being spoken in Somalia but rather in the neighboring Kenya.
At first, the analysis performed by Sprakab led to a denial of asylum for the Somalians. The case was then appealed and finally reached the Supreme Court, which in late May criticized how the courts had leaned too heavily on the language analysis in their assessment. The court also believes that the experts at Sprakab have come out with statements about the asylum seekers’ credibility that have been “highly improper.” Among other things, they have said one of the asylum seekers had rehearsed as a way to prepare.

Hundreds rejected due to errors?
The Independent writes that several hundred asylum seekers may have been rejected in error because of the analyses by Sprakab. But the Swedish Migration Board’s director Fredrik Beijer says the British verdict has no direct bearing on their cooperation with Sprakab. “Those who made mistakes in this case are the British authorities and courts who used the language analyses in an erroneous way and leaned too heavily on them. That’s not Sprakab’s fault. There’s always a risk of uncertainty with this type of analysis. You have to take it for what it is.” In Sweden, Sprakab’s analyses are also used in determining whether an asylum seeker knows anything about the area which he or she claims to be from, but Beijer warns against this type of use: “Personally I don’t think one should take in questions of this type, that part has very little evidential value. But I see that both we and the courts sometimes do it. We cannot prohibit it, even though lawyers can do so in order to strengthen a person’s story.”
Soon the Migration Board will obtain language analysis services again. Beijer doesn’t want to say whether the British court decision will affect Sprakab’s chances of renewing the contract. “It’s a procurement issue, which to choose. Even if you have the best language analysts, there is still a certain doubt in the evidence.” When asked if a more secure language analysis could have been had for more money, Beijer says: “I think there’s a risk in paying a lot for something that is still very uncertain. There’s a risk in turning something into a science, when it is not. That’s all I can say, I don’t want to precede the procurement group. But language analysis is a blunt instrument, regardless of who is the instrument.” Sprakab’s language analyses in Sweden have been criticized before, after an acclaimed investigation conducted by Swedish Radio.