Stories from the field

Author Siobhan Davis

Siobhan Davis – Podcast 2: The People in Kuala Lumpur and their Perceptions of Canada

In this podcast, I ask people I know who live in Kuala Lumpur the same questions I asked the clients of MSRI. As the locals and ‘expats’ of Kuala Lumpur have a very different legal and positional status but are sharing the same space, it is interesting to see how the answers are similar and how they are different when specific questions are asked. I had hoped to also interview a legal migrant worker (that is not as ‘expat’ but working in an employmed that would be deemed as  ‘low skilled’) to get a more diverse range of perspectives, but the language barrier would have been a bit of an issue as most of these migrants whom I know do not speak English very well. I feel as though their input would have been very valuable and interesting.

Feel free to give me some feedback, it will be very much appreciated

Ubuntu, Siobhan

Siobhan Davis – Blog Post 3: Syria in the Spotlight

Siobhan Davis – Blog Post 1: Language as an Obstacle in Refugee Resettlement

Siobhan Davis – Blog Post 2: Merrymaking

For this next blog, I have chosen to write about some of my experiences with my unaccompanied minor students, who have grown to become some of my closest friends. The event I will be discussing pertains to a dinner I had at my house a few weeks ago, and how I feel this can contribute to my Capstone Project as well as improving relations and understandings between ‘foreign’ people with ‘different’ values and traditions.

Thanks for reading and I welcome any feedback!


Siobhan Davis – Blog Post 1: Language as an Obstacle in Refugee Resettlement

Today was a pretty stressful day at work. I was given the task of organizing the translators/interpreters at the support centre clinic a few weeks ago, and today was the deadline. I’m still quite unsure of myself – knowing  how to efficiently and accurately ensure that all the doctors, counselors, and other health-practitioners will have access to a translator that speaks the right language (Farsi/Arabic/Urdu/Somali) while they are working at the clinic is not something I am familiar with. I also have to take into consideration that the staff have the perfect amount of hours to get a decent salary, all the while staying within the limited budget. I won’t get into the details, but after eight hours on Excel, I did finish creating some sort of schedule, and my supervisor seemed happy with it (we will see tomorrow when the clinic staff get a copy), but I digress.

Interpreters are immensely important to MSRI (the organization I am interning with). I don’t know the exact percentage, but from my observation I estimate that at least 85% of the refugees and asylum seekers I’ve encountered do not speak even the most basic English, the primary language used at MSRI. Without the help of an interpreter, many refugees would not be able to communicate that they require food support, need to see a doctor, or inquire about enrolling their children in school. In the clinic, translators are absolutely essential to ensure that the health practitioners (who are either Malaysians or ‘expats’) are able to comprehend the medical issues plaguing the patients. The counselors and their interpreters probably have the most difficult task. As a result of translating for refugees that have gone through severe trauma, the interpreters, who are mostly refugees themselves, often have to go through counselling sessions at the end of the day. The issue of language barriers that my organization faces on a daily basis made me think of how refugees that had been relocated to a third country would cope if they had very limited language skills.

At MSRI, one of my jobs is to facilitate an English Conversation Class with unaccompanied minor refugees once a week. Without doubt I am very unqualified for this task, considering I have not had any teacher training or even completed an undergraduate degree; however, I have been doing my best and hoping that the students are improving their English skills. In my class, some of the students are quite proficient – some of the others however are finding it very difficult to participate. In fact, some of my students can communicate with me better in Malay as compared English. The reality of being an unaccompanied minor refugee means that it is absolutely essential that the students are able to communicate in the target language (language of the receiving country), if and when they are resettled. Unaccompanied minor refugees are highly vulnerable individuals – they have escaped their place of origin alone and have lost communication with their families. Upon transfer to their destination country, the students in my class will have to learn to cope with the language barrier without support from close relatives.

For my Capstone project, I would like to focus on and investigate the topic of ‘resettlement’ of refugees, which is why I feel that the issue of language and interpreters to be relevant. According to the UNHCR, “Resettlement is the transfer of refugees from an asylum country to another State that has agreed to admit them and ultimately grant them permanent settlement.”[1]Specifically, I would like to learn more about the processes that asylum seekers and refugees undergo in order to be resettled, and the difficulties that they may face in both the asylum and receiving country. This is why my first two podcasts were concerning perceptions of Canada (a receiving country) – I wondered what information and what perceptions the refugee/asylum seekers had about a country they could potentially be resettled to. Four out of the five refugees I interviewed for the first podcast were interpreters, and for them, the language barrier when undertaking resettlement wouldn’t be too much of an issue (as long as they were destined for an English speaking country). But those proficient in target languages appear to be very few.

The language barrier that newly resettled refugees and asylum seekers could potentially create significant trepidations. 28 countries have ‘signed up’ with the UNHCR to become resettlement countries, and they are diverse in terms of languages spoken[2]. From the Czech Republic, to Italy, Sweden, and Australia, refugees may have a difficult time adjusting to and learning these foreign languages in order to gain employment or access higher education. The UNHCR is facilitating language assistance programs in receiving countries in ways such as providing interpreter services and recruiting bilingual settlement support workers.[3] I do wonder though how effective these programs are – I am hoping that when I return to Canada, I will be able to gain some valuable perspectives about this issue from refugees who live in my community or those who work with them to gain a better understanding of the resettlement processes.




[1] (Resettlement: A New Beginning in a Third Country)

[2] (Resettlement Fact Sheet 2014)

[3] (Easing Early Communication: Language Assistance)

Siobhan Davis – Podcast 3: Perspectives on Canada (2)

A continuation from my last podcast, this time I interview members of the Kuala Lumpur community who are not refugees. I wanted to also interview migrants who aren’t ‘expats’ but the issue of language is a limitation as most of them do not feel comfortable conversing in English. As with the last podcast I base my interview on the report from the Reputation Institute that awarded Canada the title of most reputable country in the world. The participants certainly had some interesting observations and opinions.

My main questions for this podcast were the same as before:
1. What the participants thought about Canada winning the title as most reputable country – and whether another country deserves it instead;
2. What images or thoughts come to mind when they think of Canada as a country;
3. Did they think that Canada has some issues when it comes to refugee/migration rights and policies;
4. Would they live or visit Canada.

Thanks for viewing/listening – feedback is very much welcome.


Reputation Institute:\\media\\media\\documents\\press-release-for-country-reptrak-final-071415_1.pdf&hash=56facd015838f38cf93e783366d75d512a556bb8d7956511770a2d102c4cf6d1


Siobhan Davis – Podcast 2: Perspectives on Canada’s Reputation (I)

A recent survey by the Reputation Institute deemed Canada to be the country with the best reputation in the world (Reputation Institute). Although I feel as though I am very lucky to be born in Canada and have a home there, I don’t necessarily agree that Canada should be considered the country that is most admirable and reputable. I suppose I fall into the category of Canadians that are “among the most self-critical”, on a scale of “how residents of a country felt about their own reputation versus how others saw it” (CBC).

 For this podcast, I wanted to carry out short interviews with a few refugees/asylum seekers that I have met at MSRI where I have been interning to gain some valuable perspectives. After learning about this report, I decided to ask them about their thoughts on Canada as a country and on the report by the Reputation Institute.

My three main questions for this podcast were:
1. What the participants thought about Canada winning the title as most reputable country – and whether another country deserves it instead;
2. What images or thoughts come to mind when they think of Canada as a country;
3. Did they think that Canada has some issues when it comes to refugee/migration rights and policies.

Thanks for viewing/listening – I welcome any feedback!


Reputation Institute:\\media\\media\\documents\\press-release-for-country-reptrak-final-071415_1.pdf&hash=56facd015838f38cf93e783366d75d512a556bb8d7956511770a2d102c4cf6d1



Siobhan Davis – Podcast 1: Pre Departure Interview

In this podcast, I am interviewed by fellow CAPI intern Perry Watson. This podcast aims to briefly explore my interests and motivations in participating in the Crossing Borders internship program.


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