In April 2017, Translators without Borders carried out a study to analyze what might be causing the language and communication barriers that exist in the context of the ongoing humanitarian migration crisis in Greece. A striking feature of this crisis is the wide range of languages and ethnicities involved. Approximately 95 percent of the refugees and migrants who arrived in Greece in 2015 and 2016 came from seven countries: Syria, Afghanistan, Iraq, Pakistan, Iran, the Democratic Republic of the Congo (DRC), and Algeria. They represent the diversity of ethnic groups in those countries and speak an array of languages and dialects.
Arabic, Dari, Farsi, Kurmanji, and Sorani speaking migrants were interviewed about how they access important information such as where to access medical care and asylum procedures. 88 per cent of respondents said that they preferred to receive information in their mother tongue. However, humanitarian aid workers are not always fully equipped to deal with the language complexities that characterize this crisis. Following the research, it was clear that humanitarian workers didn’t always know what languages they were serving, and didn’t always know which languages could be understood by whom. Knowledge of the languages spoken by migrants from different countries can present a major obstacle to the effectiveness of their work and hence, the effectiveness of the response.
Translators without Borders has created detailed language fact sheets to be used as a resource by aid workers in Greece with information on Arabic, Dari and Farsi, and Kurdish dialects – the languages spoken by the majority of refugees and migrants in Greece.
Thanks to the help of TWB translators, the language sheets are now available as free resources in English, Greek, and Italian on the TWB website.
Cover image by Karim Kai Ani.
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About TWB Words of Relief
Translators without Borders started responding to the European refugee crisis in 2015, providing much-needed language services such as the rapid translation of content for partners working in the response; training for humanitarians, translators and interpreters (professional and aspiring); setting up a language working group; establishing a humanitarian interpreter roster; and, conducting research on language and comprehension. TWB’s Words of Relief service continues to operate in Greece today. For more information and to volunteer or donate, please visit the TWB website or follow us on Twitter at @TranslatorsWB and Facebook.