The Linguist

The Linguist 52,5

The Linguist is a languages magazine for professional linguists, translators, interpreters, language professionals, language teachers, trainers, students and academics with articles on translation, interpreting, business, government, technology

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FEATURES When interpreter training saves lives Christine Pocock on a challenging mission to support interpreters working with trafficked people in Romania At the European Emergency Transit Centre for refugees in Timişoara many of the survivors are victims of violence and torture. They may also have been enslaved, trafficked and treated brutally – organ trafficking being one of the fastest escalating threats. Various Romanian agencies work to bridge the time gap between life-saving evacuation and well-prepared final resettlement in third countries. Professionally qualified interpreters are an essential human resource in that process, but unfortunately they are not always available or appropriately trained for this challenging area of interpreting, where impartiality is paramount. Generație Tânără România (GTR),1 a nonpolitical, non-religious and not-for-profit NGO has been an implementing partner of UNHCR projects since 2005, and is one of the agencies working in this area. Last year, their President, Mariana Petersel, spoke at the AGM of the Interpreting Division (ID), with great passion about her humanitarian work with trafficked people. Outlining her day-today work, she highlighted the enormous political and logistical challenges faced by the GTR in trying to combat human trafficking across Europe and in rehabilitating its victims. The European Emergency Transit Centre (ETC) was established following a tri-partite agreement, signed in May 2008 by the Romanian government, the International Organisation for Migration and UNHCR (the UN refugee agency).2 Its remit is to provide a short-term safe haven for refugees in urgent 16 The Linguist need of evacuation and resettlement who cannot be resettled in the countries from which they have come. This may be due to threatening security issues or, most significantly, the immediate risk of 'refoulement' – ie, a forced return to their home country or country of first refuge. The refugees are of all ages, genders and nationalities, arriving from across Africa and the Middle East, often by the most circuitous of routes. As a result, they frequently have no official papers (these can take months to replace), and often have urgent medical needs. 'In this context, the importance of the interpretation, as well as the person who delivers it, must not be overlooked, as it is an essential element in the crucial first steps towards successful rehabilitation and reintegration of the victims,' explained Mariana Petersel at the ID AGM. It was clear from her talk that local interpreters are not always aware of the most appropriate mode of interpreting for interviews with severely traumatised people. In urgent need Gabriele Bocanete, an ID Committee member, born and educated in Timişoara, had visited both GTR and the ETC, and felt that their need was urgent. So, in May this year, Gabriela and I, together with fellow ID volunteers Andrea Duristova and Dr Jan Cambridge, embarked on a challenging mission to deliver a three-day masterclass in impartial working for interpreters in OCTOBER/NOVEMBER Timişoara. We had obtained sponsorship for travel, accommodation and subsistence costs from a variety of external sources.3 The training was aimed at interpreters working in human-trafficking and refugee environments. For this pilot programme, we had asked GTR to identify an appropriate group of people, who completed our interpreter profile sheet in advance. This included questions about their current employment, foreign language qualifications, previous interpreting experience and personal learning objectives. They were also sent a pack of essential pre-reading materials. The incredibly motivated group of 20 came from all walks of life, including university lecturers (from the departments of modern languages and psychology), teachers, social workers, a bank employee and a freelance technical writer. Some had interpreted for GTR; others had no previous formal interpreting experience. Such was their dedication that they had re-organised childcare, work hours and family commitments in order to be there, and all

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