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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.

Families Must be Together in Community-Based Settings: Tent Cities are Inhumane. (June 18, 2018)

PHR welcomes recent steps by Congress to end the Trump administration’s policy of separating families at the U.S.-Mexico border, but rejects any proposal to detain families in tent cities on military bases. PHR urges the Trump administration and Congress to keep families together in community-based settings, which are humane and effective alternatives to detention.

America’s Health Professionals Appeal to Trump Administration: End Family Separation at Border Immediately (June 14, 2018)

Thousands of medical voices from across the United States have joined forces with Physicians for Human Rights (PHR) to urge the Trump administration to immediately halt the separation of migrant and asylum seeking children from their parents at the U.S.-Mexico border.

Domestic Violence is a Form of Persecution (June 11, 2018)

Physicians for Human Rights (PHR) strongly condemns the decision by U.S. Attorney General Jeff Sessions to revoke international legal protection, in the form of asylum, for survivors of domestic violence.

Family Separation is Cruel and Unnecessary (June 6, 2018)

PHR welcomes the United Nations’ call for the United States to immediately end its policy of separating families after they cross the U.S.-Mexico border. PHR reiterates that the Trump administration’s so-called “zero tolerance” policy, outlined recently by Attorney General Jeff Sessions, violates the fundamental right of family unity, protected as a constitutional right in the United States, a human right under international human rights law, and affirmed in international refugee law and migration law.

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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.

Under Attack at Home and Refused Refuge Abroad (April 25, 2018)

Despite horrific conditions in their war-torn home, just 11 Syrian refugees were admitted to the United States this year. Today, the Supreme Court began to review the constitutionality of the Trump administration’s travel ban, a discriminatory policy that endangers the right to seek asylum.

Amid Hostility Toward Immigrants, Working to Help Asylum Seekers (July 26, 2017)

For Spyros Orfanos, PhD, a psychologist at New York University (NYU) and a Physicians for Human Rights (PHR) partner, the current negative political environment surrounding immigrants strikes a personal chord.

Taking Refuge in the Law During the Trump Era (February 8, 2017)

I’m a Muslim woman of color living in diverse New York City, but the part of the city I live in is predominantly conservative. As a visible minority, I have never felt particularly welcomed by some of my neighbors. But up until recently, I was comforted by the fact that if the hostility expressed toward me escalated, I could at least take refuge in the law — that no matter my religion or my skin color or my choice of dress, the protections afforded by the rule of law would provide some measure of safety, or at least accountability.

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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 »