The inquiry into the deaths of 72 people in the Grenfell Tower fire is not automatically translating witness statements or expert reports into other languages, according to a leading charity.
According to the charity INQUEST, which handles state-related deaths, lawyers for the families bereaved by the fire on 14 June 2017 are having to apply for funding for evidence to be translated for their clients, as the inquiry itself will not fund translation services as a rule.
Remy Mohamed, Grenfell Project Coordinator at INQUEST, said: “It is disheartening to see that some bereaved survivors and residents feel disconnected from the inquiry process. Issues about the venue, disclosure and questioning of witnesses remain ever present.
“Through not routinely translating key statements and evidence, the inquiry team are further isolating those for whom English may not be a first language.”
Ms Mohamed asserted that the inquiry would only be legitimate if it did more to ensure effective and equal participation for Grenfell’s survivors and their families.
Commenting on the inquiry’s policy on routine translation of key documents, Zita Holbourne, a representative of BME Lawyers 4 Grenfell, said: “If the reason for not translating is cost then they are putting money before people which is what caused the fire in the first place, but we must also question if the motive is one of racism by deliberately reducing or excluding the participation in the inquiry of those it’s supposed to be for.”
A spokesperson for the inquiry said: “The inquiry is committed to ensuring its proceedings are accessible and will provide funding for all reasonable requests for translation services.”
“Translators will be provided by the inquiry to allow witnesses to give oral evidence in whichever language they are most comfortable communicating in,” he added.
The spokesperson also asserted that the inquiry has not rejected any requests for translations, and said that inquiry guides are produced online in Arabic and Farsi, the most widely spoken languages among Grenfell’s former residents.
Here is the Translation, which provides translations of key material from the inquiry into 22 languages used by Grenfell survivors, received £9,066 from independent funders in June 2017 in order to maintain its work.
Organisations such as Language Reach, meanwhile, have been involved in not-for-profit translation work for families who may struggle with English.
Renewed questions about the inquiry’s accessibility follow allegations this month from Pete Weatherby QC, who represents families of those who died at Grenfell, that less than 5% of key documents from Phase 1 of the inquiry have been released to survivors.