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Asylum

Attorneys, please use our updated forensic evaluation request form to submit requests to asylum@phr.org. Please note the updated instructions about deadlines, and be sure to leave sufficient time for us to fulfill your request.


For more than twenty years, Physicians for Human Rights (PHR) has been at the forefront of protecting the right to live in safety. The Asylum Program’s unique model provides direct service to asylum seekers, advocates for improved conditions in U.S. immigration detention centers, and documents human rights abuses that immigrants suffer in their home countries and in U.S. care.

Asylum Network: Proving Human Rights Abuses

Hundreds of volunteer health professionals in our Asylum Network have helped thousands of survivors of human rights violations gain asylum in the U.S. by providing them with medical evaluations to prove they were victims of persecution. One of PHR’s evaluators has shared her experience providing evaluations for asylum seekers, in this article for The American Psychological Association.

Examining Asylum Seekers: A Health Professional's Guide to Medical and Psychological Evaluations of Torture

PHR’s manual provides medical professionals with the information necessary to conduct potentially life-saving evaluations. Includes an overview of political asylum law and procedure in the United States, an explanation of the physician's role in verifying signs and symptoms consistent with torture, and a review of components of appropriate written and oral medical testimony.

Fact sheets on Asylum

PHR has written several fact sheets on various aspects of asylum, asylum law, immigration detention, and more. These PDFs made for printing can be found here.

Trump Administration Seeks to Detain Children Indefinitely (September 6, 2018)

PHR today denounced the Trump administration’s announcement that it would seek to evade its legal obligations under the Flores settlement, which limits the length of time that children can be detained and creates minimum standards for their housing and care. PHR said that defying the 1997 consent decree would place the administration squarely in breach of its legal obligations and violates international norms protecting the rights and wellbeing of children, refugees, and asylum seekers.

Family Separation Crisis Update: In which we attempt to “fix” Sec. Nielsen’s statement (August 21, 2018)

Within days of the first family separations at the U.S. border, more than 20,000 medical professionals and PHR supporters condemned the barbaric practice in a letter to Department of Homeland Security (DHS) Secretary Kirstjen Nielsen. She then responded with a letter that simply shouldn’t be shared without pointing out the obvious factual errors and misleading doublespeak.

PHR Echoes Concerns Raised by Homeland Security Health Experts about Family Detention (July 19, 2018)

Physicians for Human Rights (PHR) echoes today the serious concerns expressed by two Department of Homeland Security (DHS) medical experts who have spoken out about the inhumane policy of detaining migrant families. The physicians, who have served as longtime DHS consultants and who monitor family detention centers, warned that any planned expansion of family detention will place children and their families at imminent risk of further harm.

Physicians for Human Rights Condemns U.S. Attempt to Eliminate Legal Protections for Immigrant Children (June 21, 2018)

Physicians for Human Rights (PHR) condemned today’s request by the U.S. Department of Justice (DOJ) to modify the 1997 Flores settlement agreement by seeking exemption from the requirements that children be kept in the least restrictive setting possible

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A mother outrageously separated from her son at the U.S. border (August 22, 2018)

The Trump administration’s brutal enforcement of family separation has precipitated a full-blown human crisis at the U.S. border. PHR volunteers are using their skills to help prevent deportations.

Tell Congress: Investigate the harmful health effects of family detention NOW. (July 13, 2018)

Please send your message today demanding that Congress immediately hold oversight hearings on the harmful and life-threatening detention facilities at the U.S. southern border. With thousands of children at risk, there is no time to lose.

Detention Facilities Display Dangerous Trend of Delayed and Inadequate Care (June 20, 2018)

For a doctor, there is nothing harder than seeing a patient with a treatable condition not receiving basic care. I recently met a woman in U.S. immigration detention. She said that although she had notified the corrections staff that she suffered from chronic hypertension, it took four days for her to be given her blood pressure medication. By then she was experiencing stabbing pains in her chest.

These Women Were Repeatedly Beaten and Raped. They Deserve U.S. Protection. (May 24, 2018)

Among the hundreds of thousands of people desperately seeking asylum in the United States each year are countless victims of domestic violence trying to escape a life of abuse. They’re often fleeing such extreme situations that they are willing to leave behind everything they know and to risk hardship and danger along the treacherous journey to safety.

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Statement on the Syrian Refugee Crisis (January 2014)

PHR submitted a statement on the Syrian Refugee Crisis to a Hearing before the Senate Judiciary Subcommittee on the Constitution, Civil Rights, and Human Rights.

Buried Alive: Solitary Confinement in the US Detention System (April 2013)

Solitary confinement is a form of segregation in which people are held in total or near-total isolation in small cells for 23 hours a day. It is used to control and discipline detainees in federal and state prisons, local jails, and immigration and national security detention facilities. Unlike incarcerated prisoners, immigration and national security detainees are held not as punishment for a crime but as a preventive measure, and will likely never be charged with a crime. For these people, solitary confinement then becomes entirely punitive, with dire consequences for their mental and physical health.

Examining Asylum Seekers (December 2012)

Clinicians can assist asylum seekers and others seeking protection in the United States by providing objective documentation of their physical and psychological injuries and trauma. This documentation becomes evidence that can corroborate the asylum seeker’s narrative of persecution. This manual is a tool for clinicians to use in assisting their evaluation and documentation of asylum seekers' histories. PHR intends to provide medical professionals with the information necessary to conduct these potentially life-saving evaluations by including an overview of political asylum law and procedure in the United States, an explanation of the physician's role in verifying signs and symptoms consistent with torture, and a review of components of appropriate written and oral medical testimony.

Invisible in Isolation (September 2012)

Immigrants in detention facilities around the United States are often subjected to punitive and long-term solitary confinement and denied meaningful avenues of appeal, according to an investigation by PHR and Heartland Alliance’s National Immigrant Justice Center (NIJC).

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Related Profiles

Coleen Kivlahan, MD, MSPH

Coleen Kivlahan, MD, MSPH

As a family medicine physician for more than 25 years, Coleen Kivlahan serves the Association of American Medical Colleges as the senior director for health systems innovation. She is an avid volunteer with PHR in the Asylum Program, both as a trainer and medical evaluator, as well as a volunteer medical advisor and lead trainer for the Program on Sexual Violence in Conflict Zones. Read More »