Refugee Credibility Assessment and the “Religious Imposter” Problem: A Case Study of Eritrean Pentecostal Claims in Egypt
Credibility assessment in refugee status determination (RSD) poses unique challenges when the outcome of asylum applications turns on the question of whether an asylum seeker is actually a member of a persecuted religious minority. These cases require secular adjudicators to delve into matters of religious identity and faith that are, by their nature, subjective and beyond the realm of objective analysis. This Article explores practical means of addressing this challenge through a case study of the RSD interviews of Eritrean asylum seekers in Egypt who based their refugee claims on Pentecostal religious associations. Analysis of the interview methods used in RSD interviews indicates that RSD decision makers operated from several implicit assumptions about how to conduct religious-credibility assessment. Attempts to test the sincerity of religious faith via knowledge quizzes and inquiries into subjective beliefs have questionable logical justifications and are fraught with significant risks. By contrast, the most logically defensible approaches are based on the “eye of the persecutor” test, which focuses on observable triggers of persecution that put individuals at risk.