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Examining Asylum Seekers

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A Clinician's Guide to Physical and Psychological Evaluations of Torture and Ill-Treatment

December 2012

The United States is the largest recipient of asylum claims among industrialized nations. Victims of persecution and torture who come to the United States may apply for asylum, withholding of removal, and protection under the UN Convention against Torture (CAT) in order to remain in the US legally and rebuild their lives.

They must prove they were persecuted or tortured, or have a well-founded fear of future persecution or torture. For most of them, only a forensic medical examination can document the physical and mental scars left by torture, beatings, sexual violence, slavery, and more.

Physicians for Human Rights has been providing pro bono medical evaluations for asylum seekers and others fleeing persecution for more than 20 years. The results are compelling – more than 90% of confirmed case outcomes are positive, meaning that the applicant was granted the right to live, work, and begin healing in the US.

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.

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