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Asylum Network

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Examining Asylum Seekers: A Clinician's Guide to Physical and Psychological Evaluations of Torture and Ill Treatment - manual now available! Click here for more information and to order.


"I have performed nearly a dozen of these evaluations and I can confirm to you that hands down it continues to be the most rewarding thing I do as a professional. Nothing could make us feel prouder than knowing we have used our unique skills to help these individuals make it to safety." -A doctor in the asylum network

What is the Asylum Network?

PHR’s Asylum Network is a community of hundreds of health professionals who offer pro bono forensic psychological and physical evaluations to document evidence of torture and persecution for men, women, and children fleeing danger in their home countries.

Each year, tens of thousands of people from around the world seek safety through the complex and restrictive United States immigration process so that they can re-build their lives in the US. This vulnerable group includes survivors of torture, domestic abuse, trafficking, and other forms of persecution. They often feel they have nothing more than their own words to substantiate their suffering, but some of the most compelling evidence they can offer — physical and psychological sequelae of torture — can be documented by a health professional to make the difference between safety in the US or forcible return to countries of persecution.

Our clinicians have specialized training and expertise in recognizing and documenting the trauma of conflict, displacement, abuse, discrimination, and oppression — issues at the heart of many humanitarian relief applications. The medical-legal affidavits that they submit to courts on behalf of survivors are frequently the determining factor when judges grant asylum or other relief from deportation.

Our members also use their expertise to advocate for the health and human rights of people held in immigration detention and for others negatively impacted by US immigration policies. Through their work in clinics, detention centers, courtrooms, and policy-makers’ offices, our volunteer health professionals are saving lives every day.

You Can Join the Asylum Network!

Volunteering to evaluate survivors of persecution is a concrete, immediate, and rewarding way for you to use your medical training in the service of human rights. Read about the experiences of one of PHR's volunteers in providing evaluations for asylum seekers, in this article.

As a Network member, you’ll employ the very skills you use in your everyday career to provide unbiased forensic evaluations in support of immigration applications. Your role as a health professional is crucial. In conducting these examinations, you can determine whether the injuries or trauma sustained by an applicant are consistent with the account of his or her experiences. If you, the evaluator, determine that the sequelae are indeed consistent, you will also prepare an affidavit to submit to the court. In some cases, you may offer oral testimony to the judge. Health professionals are often key to helping judges and attorneys understand the effects of trauma on the applicant's behavior, memory, understanding, and demeanor.

Volunteering is Remarkably Effective

The testimony that Network members provide is often the difference between life and death for victims of persecution. Nearly 90% of our reported case outcomes are successful, meaning that the client and often his or her family have been granted the opportunity to start a new life and begin healing in the US. Our Network members’ generosity in donating their time and talent has helped thousands of survivors of persecution re-build their lives in the US.

It's Easy to Get Started

We provide information, training, and support to get you started as a Network member. PHR offers a written guide describing asylum law and procedure, health professionals’ roles in asylum cases, and components of effective testimony. We also have sample evaluations for you to review, and we’ll match you with a Network mentor to guide you as you take on your first few cases.

While many health professionals find that their past clinical practice — coupled with PHR materials and mentoring — provides sufficient background to begin volunteering with the Network, formal trainings are also available. Generally a minimum of two trainings per year are held. Please contact us for more information on current trainings.

What are the Requirements to Volunteer?

  • You must be state-licensed and board-certified, or if you are an intern or resident and have not yet received these certifications, you must be supervised by a physician who has.
  • Foreign-language fluencies can be helpful but are not at all required. The client’s attorney will provide an interpreter to assist during the evaluation if necessary.
  • You’ll take on as many or as few cases as your schedule permits. Whether once a year, once a month, or any number in between, your contribution is essential and valued.

If you’re ready to join PHR’s Asylum Network, please fill in this pdf and return to us. (You can either fill the form in electronically using Adobe Acrobat or Acrobat Reader - available at http://www.adobe.com - or print the form to fill out, and fax or mail back to us (see contact info on the form). If you’d like more information, contact us here.