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Thursday, 9 August, 2001, 08:52 GMT 09:52 UK
Stressed interpreters 'need support'
Asylum seeker
Many asylum seekers have fled from persecution
Interpreters face "heavy" emotional stress in their work, especially when dealing with asylum seekers, a survey suggests.

They often encounter people in "desperate" situations, who tell distressing stories of persecution.

Many also work long hours for low pay with little support, according to the survey of 150 interpreters by the Manufacturing, Science and Finance union (MSF).

The union has called for better training to help interpreters cope with the "unique aspects" of their job.

When we hear of the persecution that asylum seekers have had in their country it is very distressing

Many of the interpreters questioned complained of poor treatment by courts and police, and long delays in payment.

Their working conditions tended to be poor, and their wages could be as low as 4 an hour.

Most said their jobs involved significant emotional stress when dealing with people hit by "desperate" events.

One interpreter said: "When we hear of the persecution that asylum seekers have had in their country it is very distressing."

Others complained that the job could be dangerous.

One said she had narrowly escaped injury when a suspect being interviewed at a police station suddenly lunged at her face with a plastic fork.

The MSF said there was no effective regulation governing the qualifications of translators working in the justice system.

"It is vital that only qualified professionals work in these sensitive situations if justice is to be done," said MSF national officer Chris Ball.

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