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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.

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

PHR Denounces Executive Order to Replace Separation of Children with Family Detention (June 20, 2018)

President Trump has signed an Executive Order to end his own administration’s policy of separating migrant and asylum-seeking children from their parents in the face of a massive public outcry and global condemnation. The order calls for children to instead be detained with their families, as part of the administration’s new “zero tolerance” tactic which seeks to prosecute all immigrants who cross the border illegally. To date, more than 2,300 children have been separated from their parents.

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.

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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.

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.

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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 »