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Searching for pro bono translators working in human trafficking for doctoral research
Thread poster: Greta Holmer

Greta Holmer  Identity Verified
United Kingdom
Local time: 21:16
Dutch to English
+ ...
May 25, 2005

I am a professional translator and also a doctoral student at the universitat rovira i Virgili in Tarragona, Spain on the translation and intercultural studies program.

Because of my interest in this subject I have decided to research the role of translators and interpreters in combatting human trafficking.
I am still in the early stages of my research but have thought of a number of elements to concentrate on.
Firstly I thought a comparative study may be useful on countries in which victims are provided with translators and interpreters as opposed to countries where this is not the case and whether it makes a difference to the way in which cases are handled. Another element I thought may be useful is to study the way in which translators are able to facilitate communication between administrations, governments, etc. for example between a source country from which people are trafficked and a target country to which they are trafficked.
A third element I found interesting is the subjectivity of the translator, is it feasible for a translator or interpreter to remain objective in their choice of language and vocabulary when considering cases of human trafficking or do they invariably side either with the victim or the law enforcers (police, immigration, etc). And finally I would like to consider whether there has been a development in the west (preferably focussing on the EU) in the use of translators and interpreters and whether there is a development to try to understand and support the victims rather than simply deporting them to their countries of origin or if this is not the case.

In order to be able to carry out this research I will need to contact translators who have worked in the field and I am loathe to analyse my own translations as that will certainly not be objective. I will also need some way of gathering details from charities, NGO's and governments, immigration etc.
Do you have any ideas on how I could get hold of this data? Could you give me any recommendations or advice?

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Parrot  Identity Verified
Local time: 22:16
Member (2002)
Spanish to English
+ ...
That's a large area May 25, 2005

I just wondered what your thesis director says.

A logical start would be habitual points of entry and the organizations working there, but as you may imagine, in the EU alone, that spreads you clear across the borders (also, note there is the Schengen variable vis-à-vis other national laws), unless you can find existing local studies. One alternative might be to concentrate on one point of entry, but if you're still exploring the available material, leave that as a possibility.

Nonetheless I don't rule out you may get some responses from colleagues working in the field. If I remember right, we have a volunteer from the Spanish subcommunity working on cases from Africa.

For that matter, it might be a good idea for you to post an e-mail address where you can be contacted directly. (Note that although you specify pro-bono, some affairs do not cease to be confidential).

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Greta Holmer  Identity Verified
United Kingdom
Local time: 21:16
Dutch to English
+ ...
data collection May 25, 2005

My head of department has told me the first thing would be to try and collect as much data as possible and then to try and focus the research depending on the data I am able to obtain.

He didn't hold out too much hope for me as he said translators and interpreters are generally a shy lot that don't take kindly to having their work scrutinized by outsiders and as I have already said I don't really want to scrutinize my own..
But it seems so much more socially conscious and rewarding than studying the development of technology and CAT tools which was my original idea for research.

I do have some contacts within anti-slavery and anti-human trafficking associations so I am hoping to get some places to start there.
I realise there is a lot of confidential material but on the other hand there is also a lot of material that is used in campaigns and so on which is not so confidential. Part of the research could also be geared to translators' self-perception or the perception of translators by the clients in this field.

My email address is or

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Tsu Dho Nimh
Local time: 14:16
Not "pro bono" in the USA May 26, 2005

In the USA, the translators are not "pro bono" ... they are hired by the law enforcement agencies and the prosecutors (USA department of Justice).

I've seen an article recently on the main prosecutor - perhaps her office staff could help you contact the translators they use.

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Daniela Gardini
Local time: 22:16
English to German
+ ...
W.E.S.T. Smuggling and Trafficking Project in Italy May 26, 2005

The Region Emilia Romagna has recently finished a big project on Smuggling and Trafficking and will present the results in June in Bologna at a final conference. I have been the official interpreter/ translator for the whole project and will be happy to answer whatever questions you may have.

If you want to have a look at the project, the website is:

Police and social services in Germany are currently starting a similar project and Mountain Unlimited in Austria has been very active in this area.

Good luck

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