Extracts from Tribunal Decisions

“I find that the Judge has made errors of law. In particular, he adopted an erroneous approach to the language reports. He was required to assess the relative weight to be attached to the reports supportive of the respondent’s case as well as the report of Professor Matras in support of the appellant’s. He failed in certain respects to take account or engage with relevant material or to resolve any conflicts in evidence. … In his appeal the appellant had put forward specific arguments in respect of the LOID report, which were comprehensively set out in the skeleton argument. .. [The] criticisms were set out in the report of Professor Matras. … Nor did the Judge engage with the remainder of the specific criticisms put forward in respect of the LOID language analysis report. … In particular, he does not appear to have considered Professor Matras’s view that features of Egyptian Arabic present in his speech are explicable by the time he has spent in Egypt. … For these reasons I set aside the decision of the Firsttier Tribunal.”  (Deputy Upper Tribunal Judge C R Mailer, May 2017).

“I give greater weight to [the report] produced by the Professor of Linguistics at Manchester University. I agree with his analysis of the linguistic report dated 31/03/17 that its data was flawed, as was their reliance on published sources. I accept his opinion that the assumptions they made were unfounded and the inferences draw from the data unsafe. … Applying the appropriate standard of proof, I accept the opinion of the Professor of Linguistics at Manchester University that his analysis of A’s speech points ‘coherently and consistently to an origin in northern Syria and are not reconcilable with an origin in northern Iraq’”. (Timothy Thorne, Judge of the First-tier Tribunal, October 2017).

 “Professor Matras is a leading expert whose research projects at the University of Manchester has collected samples of Qamishli Kurdish .. After considering .. the report of Professor Matras (which I prefer to the respondent’s LOID report) I reach the conclusion that the appellant is a stateless Kurd from Syria. (Judge of the First-tier Tribunal Page, November 2015)

“I prefer Professor Matras’s reports to those of Sprakab because in my judgment he is better qualified, and his reports are detailed and referenced.” (Maxine Myers, Judge of the First-tier Tribunal, January 2015)

“I have little hesitation in preferring the report of the experienced Professor Matras … It follows therefore that as a result I have little hesitation in adopting the conclusions made by Professor Matras.” (R. Lloyd-Smith, Judge of the First-tier Tribunal, June 2015)

“The appellant’s report relies upon an author [Professor Matras] with far more significant credentials … [it] also considers wider variables to arrive at its conclusions. … For these reasons I find that the appellant’s report is the more reliable.” (Judge Fox, Judge of the First-tier Tribunal, August 2016)

“I find that the appellant’s report is the more compelling. The methodology is clearly stated … Professor Matras provides not only an explanation for his own conclusion, but also a credible analysis of the Verified material that would support an alternative conclusion.” (Judge Rayner, Judge of the First-tier Tribunal, February 2017)

“The expert [Professor Matras] has impressive credentials … I find his report to be admirably concise, informative and well-expressed, and I give it considerable weight. … I am quite satisfied that the report is one which can be relied upon.” (Rebecca Caswell, Judge of the First-tier Tribunal, March 2017)

“I attach greater weight to Professor Matras’s report over and above that of the Sprakab team. Professor Matras is a leading academic who specialises in linguistics at a highly regarded UK university. He has carefully analysed the findings of the Sprakab report and explained why he rejects them. In the light of Professor Matras’s report I am satisfied that the appellant is a national of Iran”. (N. Bircher, Judge of the First-tier Tribunal, December 2017)

“I note that Professor Matras’ Summary Curriculum Vitae shows him to have experience and qualifications that make him eminently suited to provide expert evidence in this appeal … Having carefully considered what is said in all three Verified documents against the evidence of Professor Matras, I prefer the evidence of Professor Matras … it seems to me that the whole process of picking a ‘hypothesis 2’ to be juxtaposed against the appellant’s claimed linguistic community of origin is at least questionable (for the reasons given by Professor Matras) … I prefer Professor Matras’ reference to a co-occurrence in the appellant’s speech being sufficient to confirm the appellant’s origin in Syria … I also accept that criticisms of Professor Matras relating to the Linguist used by Verified in this case are valid. In particular, the Linguist is not said to have any relevant qualifications in the Arabic language  … I also accept that the reliability of Professor Matras’ evidence is strengthened by a database of recordings of Arabic speakers maintained by Manchester University” (Judge Cruthers, Judge of the First-tier Tribunal, 31 January 2018)

“Professor Matras has been Professor of Linguistics at Manchester University since 2003 and specialises in Kurdish languages. Professor Matras has been accepted by an expert linguist by the Tribunal on several previous occasions and is responsible for the Manchester Kurdish Dialects Database, a source of information relied upon by other experts in linguistics. I am satisfied that Professor Matras is eminent in his field and I attach significant weight to his opinions … It would be an understatement to say that Professor Matras’s report fatally undermines the VERIFIED report relied upon by the Respondent … Professor Matras’s analysis of the Appellant’s interview with VERIFIED leads him to conclude that the Appellant’s speech is consistent with his claimed origin in northern Syria. I find it credible that the Appellant is Syrian.” (Judge Foudy, Judge of the First-tier Tribunal, 2 August 2018)

“Professor Matras set out his own assessment but, as I have been taken to it, set out a number of cogent criticisms of the assessment and the influences upon the assessment that Verified had made.  . It is most unfortunate but the Judge simply failed to address those criticisms which undoubtedly bear on the assessment of the Appellant’s speech and the analysis of the root of that speech .. As Professor Matras also pointed out, there is no indication that the Verified report’s main author has any knowledge of Kurdish and no indication that the analysts who had assisted in the overall exercise had any formal training in linguistic analysis. On that ground alone, I am satisfied that the Original Tribunal’s decision cannot stand because adequate and proper or sufficient reasons have not been given for the Judge’s preference of that report.”  (Deputy Upper Tribunal Judge Davey, March 2018)

“I have had the benefit of reading the report prepared by Professor Yaron Matras, which I find to be sufficient and reliable. I am satisfied that Professor Matras is giving his opinion on matters within his expertise. .. He is professor of linguistics at the University of Manchester. He has specialised training in the linguistics of Kurdistan. .. I place reliance on the conclusions reached by Professor Matras. .. Professor Matras concludes that the Sprakab report suffers from major methodological flaws and fails to specify how it arrives at its conclusions. Having read the report in its entirety, I find considerable force in his conclusions in this respect. .. I find that the report prepared by Professor Matras is fairly balanced, .. I find that this gives an indication of its objectivity.” (First-Tier Tribunal Judge Manyarara, November 2018)

“Professor Matras is an acknowledged expert whose undoubted expertise is unchallenged. His credentials are impressive. .. Professor Matras’s report .. effectively provide a comprehensive demolition of the VERIFIED methodology, the expertise or rather lack of expertise of its analysis, the report and its conclusions. .. Professor Matras has produced a report which is detailed and clear in its methodology, analysis and conclusions and I prefer his expert evidence to the conclusions of the VERIFIED report”. (First-Tier Tribunal Judge RJ Bradshaw, October 2018)

“In view of the comments made by Professor Matras in his report I am satisfied that limited weight should be placed on the report by Verified. In particular the author of the report has no knowledge of Arabic. In such circumstances even given the assistance of two other persons how is she able to prepare a report as to the Appellant who is an Arabic speaker? The two analysts were not assessing their own dialect and this must limit their ability to assess the Appellant’s statements. Further, there is no indication that either of the analysts have undergone specific training in descriptive linguistics or have any general awareness of the geographical distribution of structural features of Arabic dialects beyond their own… In view of what the Professor has said I am satisfied that the Verified report cannot be relied on and cannot, with any safety, conclude that the Appellant is from Cairo.”  (First-Tier Tribunal Judge C. Andrew, December 2018)

“I find the expert report of Professor Matras to be much more persuasive than that of the Respondent. It is very methodological and supported with better reasoning. … The report shows that he has significant expertise in analysing not only the Respondent’s report but in making his own assessment of the 33 minute recording. I therefore have no doubt in concluding that the Appellant .. is from Syria.” (Judge of the first-tier tribunal Adio, March 2017)

“I have carefully read through the respondent’s report on the appellant’s language and the report from Professor Matras and will say from the outset that I prefer the evidence from Professor Matras. His report makes it clear that the author of the respondent’s report, albeit assisted by Kurdish speaking analysts, has no personal knowledge of Kurdish. .. None of the two analysts involved in this report come from the same area as the appellant and neither of them speak his dialect, so how could they pick out those examples of his speech which were consistent and inconsistent with the area from which he claims to originate?.. The respondent’s report … does not say .. why it still states that the appellant is more likely than not to come from Northern Iraq when there is as much language consistent with Northern Iraq as there was consistent with Syria … Having read the Professor’s very comprehensive and persuasive report, I am satisfied that I prefer his opinion to that of the flawed analysis provided to the respondent”. (Judge of the First-tier Tribunal Hawden-beal, April 2019)

“I find that Professor Matras made a number of pointed and well-reasoned criticisms of VERIFIED’s report … I find he has the advantage because he is both a trained linguist and a proficient speaker of the Arabic language. .. On balance I find Professor Matras evidence to be of greater weight… I have had the benefit of his oral evidence and I find he is a leader in his field. Professor Matras’ training in dialect analysis and his 30 years of research training and expertise is not comparable to 3 native speakers and a linguist with no knowledge of Arabic. It is against that background I also evaluate his critique of VERIFIED’s methodology and find that they go to the core and undermine the validity of their conclusions. .. Professor Matras reports are, in stark contrast, transparent with regard to the data used, accessible and his analysis is replicable. As such I must accord his reports greater weight”. (Judge Chowdhury Judge of the First-tier Tribunal, 13 November 2020).

“The report by Professor Matras criticises the method used to prepare the Sprakab report. I note the impressive resume of Professor Matras who lists extensive expertise and involvement in research from as early as 2003. The expertise relates specifically to the language of Kurdish. I note in comparison that the linguists who compiled the Sprakab report do have significant experience in the field of language analysis, but do not specifically specialise in Kurdish. .. Given the experience of the Professor, which I prefer above the authors of the Sprakab report, I consider that he would be better placed to extract the appropriate elements of the conversation to be able to make a proper and informed assessment of the Appellant”. (Judge Turner of the First-tier Tribunal, 9th October 2020)

“Professor Matras’ report effectively serves two functions. Firstly, by offering a critique of the Verified report which concludes with the view that the Verified report contained a number of major flaws and is therefore not reliable. Secondly, by providing his own analysis in which he concludes that the linguistic data strongly support the appellant’s account according to which he was socialised in eastern Al-Hasaka, Syria. … I find that the most compelling criticism levelled by Professor Matras is that the author of the Verified report, in testing the first hypothesis, has failed to provide a proper comparison of the appellant’s linguistic behaviour with the linguistic behaviour of his claimed home area of Al-Hasaka. In particular, Professor Matras, based on publicly referenced research, shows that the Verified report draws on research evidence about the linguistic behaviours linguistic behaviours that describe the Kurmanji dialects of southern Turkey, between Mardin and Cizre, rather than the proper linguistic contextof Al-Hasaka. Indeed, Professor Matras’ criticism of this aspect of the report extends to the observation that the authors of the Verified report do not appear to be aware of the two dialects, known as Xerbi and Ashiti, that are spoken in the Al-Hasaka region. I find that these flaws identified by Professor Matras, and evidenced by reference to publicly acknowledged sources of data, are of such a fundamental nature as to wholly undermine the reliability of the Verified report. As adverted to above, in these circumstances I do not consider it necessary to review the other criticisms of the Verified report put forward by Professor Matras.” (First Tier Tribunal Judge Atkinson, 15th December 2021)

“the Appellant had obtained a new report, by a Professor Matras of the University of Manchester. Given the agreement between the parties I need not set out the detail of that report in writing, save to note that Professor Matras offers a cogent critique of the Verified AB report, and concludes that in his view the Appellant’s spoken Arabic is “fully consistent” with him being a native of Daraa, Syria .. [The President Mr Justice Lane] made directions that the Respondent consider that new evidence before the case could proceed before the Upper Tribunal. Before me today Mr [ ] has explained that the Respondent has done so, and accepts the evidence to be authoritative. The Respondent therefore
intends to grant the Appellant refugee status. .. I resolve that impasse by simply allowing the appeal on the grounds that the Appellant has discharged the burden of proof and demonstrated that he is indeed a national of Syria. (Upper Tribunal Judge Bruce,  September 2019)

“Professor Matras is a Kurdish speaker with expertise in Kurdish dialects and has
conducted his own analysis of the recording that the Sprakab assessment was based upon … The professor’s report is extensive, such that he provides more evidence and information upon which he reaches his conclusion than the authors of the Sprakab Report… I find I can place reliance on Professor Matras’ report and preferred his report to that of SPRAKAB. … The reasons for refusal letter place a heavy reliance on the Sprakab Report. It is on that basis the respondent rejects the appellant’s assertion that he may have some linguistic characteristics which could be seen across the borders and also places significant weight on the conclusion that there is no Arabic influence in the appellant’s speech. Those are both matters which the expert has dealt with explicitly: identifying that the dialect spoken by the appellant does appear across the borders, and also that there is Arabic influence in the appellant’s speech. … Standing back and looking at the evidence in the round, I am satisfied that the appellant has established, to the relevant low standard, that there is a real likelihood that he is from Syria as he claimed”. (Judge Of The First-Tier Tribunal Davidge, June 2022)