Europa Press

The refugee crisis has triggered a human drama of staggering proportions. Thousands of these refugees, including children and the elderly, the most vulnerable groups in society, are currently living in camps in Greece, where they are attended by people whom they cannot understand.

Different customs, different cultures and a jumble of languages intermingle in the chaos of a shared tragedy. To try to alleviate these serious communication problems, SeproTec Multilingual Solutions and the European Asylum Support Office (EASO), which has a specific budget for this project, have launched an action program to improve the welfare of these people through an interpreting and cultural mediation service, a project capable of building bridges between different cultures and enabling better understanding between refugees and their hosts.

To carry out this project, the EASO is renewing its collaboration with SeproTec, in view of the latter’s extensive experience in cultural mediation of international conflicts and the quality of its multilingual services, including translation and interpreting.

SeproTec has selected a team of 400 professionals, interpreters and cultural mediators with extensive experience in international cooperation projects, who will be gradually traveling to Greece to receive the refugees in camps and hot spots, covering the wide range of languages required there, such as Arabic, Pashto, Kurdish and Dari.

Once again, international cooperation and the work of interpreters and cultural mediators is serving as one of the keys in the process of resolving major social and international conflicts.

Lina is a Spanish woman. That is clear, among other things, from her place of birth: Cádiz. What I’m not entirely clear on after our conversation is where her heart lies, divided as it is between Spain, her country of birth, and Syria, her family’s home.

It is one o’clock in the afternoon and we are meeting with one of our Arabic interpreters. We want to understand the real situation faced by Syrian refugees and how the work of interpreters can help in an international conflict like this one. After a few minutes of chit-chat, Lina begins the interview with a devastating statement. “I’ve had the misfortune of experiencing first-hand the flight from Syria,” she says. “The stampede of my own family.” Lina, you see, though she was born in Spain, is the daughter of Syrians who have had to escape from their own home. Her father came to Spain very young, and in circumstances far removed from today’s, to study medicine. “He was surprised back then by Spain’s immense cultural and industrial backwardness,” she muses. The irony of life.

Lina has lived her whole life in Spain, but she has also spent long periods of time in Syria. “The last few summers that I was in Syria you practically couldn’t tell whether you were in Europe or a Middle Eastern country. Its ambiance, its restaurants and terraces, made you think you were in a modern country.” She spent those summers with her cousins, the same cousins who left the country without a return ticket some months ago. “My cousin was cooking and his wife was painting her nails when a bomb exploded a few meters from their house.” One anguished glance was all it took for them to realize that their life in Syria had just ended. “They had to flee with nothing but the clothes on their backs. They didn’t even have time to prepare a small suitcase.” I tell Lina that I cannot imagine how terrible it must be to leave everything you have behind, or the fear of fleeing into the unknown. Just a look at some of the chilling images we’ve all seen by now can give us an idea of what that must be like. “The worst part is not what they do to you, it’s what you see them do to your family,” she tells me in one of the most painful parts of the interview.

She recounts horrible stories of the moment that her family arrived at Bodrum, Turkey. “There my family experienced things that they will never be able to forget. Fights, insults, humiliations…” Everything changed, though, when they came to Germany. “The welcome the Germans have given us has been fantastic. Coming to Germany meant having hope again.” Now it is time to think about the future. Lina’s cousins are between 25 and 40 years old. “The ones with children see this as an opportunity for their families. They are all dreaming of a European future.” The hardest part, though, is listening to the elders. “Not a day goes by that my grandmother doesn’t ask when she will return home.”

Lina speaks of her profession with a gleam of pride in her eyes. “I think that we interpreters have a lot to offer in this terrible conflict.” Although she has been interpreting for many different clients for over five years now, she is especially fond of her work for the Spanish Asylum and Refugee Office. “I’ve experienced moments I’ll never forget while interpreting. The tears and hugs from compatriots who hear your voice for the first time. The look on the face of a child who hears your accent and is transported back to the warmth of his hometown.” A child who, incidentally, Lina would run into again some years later. “He must have been about 18 years old then and he leapt toward me to give me a hug. He spoke perfect Spanish and was in the company of a group of Spanish friends. His life and hope were already here with us.“

Lina studied Translation and Interpreting at the Complutense University of Madrid. “I knew that I wanted to study Translation and Interpreting when I was asked, through a contact at the Syrian embassy, to accompany a Syrian music band on an official visit to Granada where the King and Queen of Spain and Bashar al Assad were going to be present.” Lina had to interpret for the musicians who did not speak Spanish. “I loved the experience. I loved traveling, being surrounded by people and feeling helpful by using the language.” After studying Translation and Interpreting she traveled to Syria to study classical Arabic at the University of Damascus. “There I also did translation from French to classical Arabic, but my passion was still interpreting.” That’s why, not long after, Lina returned to Spain and began her career as an interpreter. “Feeling that you’re helping people, helping your own compatriots with something as human as communicating, makes you feel accomplished, both as a professional and as a person.”

Thank you so much, Lina, for this moving interview and allow us to wish you and yours all the best in this new stage of your lives.

Warmly,

The SeproTec team.

SeproTec Multilingual Solutions, one of the 30 most important translation and interpreting companies in the world (Common Sense Advisory Ranking), has been chosen by EASO, the European Asylum Support Office, to provide comprehensive interpreting service in the 24 official languages of the European Union, as well as Arabic, Albanian, Armenian, Azerbaijani, Georgian, Russian, Serbian, Turkish and Ukrainian.

“The refugee crisis affects us directly. We are a multicultural team made up of more than 380 people, and many of our interpreters’ families are affected by the migratory crisis. We are not content with just listening, we want to get involved and help out, and the best way of doing that is focusing on what we do best: building bridges between different cultures and ensuring that we understand each other,” asserted Álvaro Salamanca, Institutional Relations Manager at SeproTec.

SeproTec has worked with Asylum and Refugee Offices for years providing a wide-ranging interpreting and cross-cultural mediation services. This work is essential in the process of welcoming refugees and asylum-seekers. Moreover, SeproTec has worked for the Public Administration in many countries, including those belonging to: the EU, UNICEF, the UN, the Arab League, the African Union, etc.

The company’s team of translators and interpreters strive to eliminate communication barriers. The role of interpreter is not always that of a cross-cultural mediator, nor does it necessarily have to be, but sometimes it is. To play this role the interpreter must have an excellent command of both languages and must adapt his/her speech, messages and non-verbal communication to both parties: the refugee and the host..

SeproTec also has a telephone interpreting service capable of linking clients and interpreters in less than two minutes through a simple call – a service designed to attend to the most urgent interpreting needs, such as for emergency services.