Tag Archives: Asylum

Country Condition Research for Your Asylum Case

Country Condition Research is extremely important when putting together a strong asylum packet, for both affirmative asylum in front of the asylum officer and defensive asylum in front of an Immigration Judge. This post will help both asylum seekers and their attorneys.

State Department Human Rights Report – The asylum officer or ICE attorney has very little time to do their own country research for asylum claims. They will generally rely only on the State Department Human Rights Report. It will be regarded as highly persuasive and should be read thoroughly for supporting and contradicting evidence. The reports are updated each year and are available here
International Human Rights Organizations – There are several major international human rights organizations that issue country reports and issue specific reports. The following organizations should be surveyed for supporting evidence for your case, such as evidence that certain human rights abuses are occurring in your country. 1. Amnesty International and 2. Human Rights Watch 3. Human Rights First 4. United Nations Office of the High Commissioner for Human Rights There may also be regional and local human rights organizations. They can usually be found by typing the search terms [“human rights”] and [“country name”].
Issue Specific Research – Many of the human rights organizations will cover broad topics with the occasional issue specific report. It is important to have information that addresses the issue that is at the heart of the asylum claim. One should search the issue term in google along with the country name, such as “gay rights” and “mexico” or “FGM” and “Yemen”. There are also many issue specific organizations that will have country specific information. Here are a few: International Gay and Lesbian Association International Gay and Lesbian Human Rights Commission (international women’s rights org.) (International Federation of Journalists) (Journalists for Democracy and Human Rights) (Transparency International – Corruption)
Newspapers and Media – Supporting evidence can also be found in newspaper articles, whether they are about a general topic or one event specific to your case. You should be looking at the websites of all the newspapers in your country as well as the major international newspapers such as the New York Times ( and the BBC
Google – Google is an amazing tool, it will help you find anything. One trick is to use several different ways of saying the same search term. Don’t just type in “police abuse” and “iran”, also type in ” police” and “human rights” and “iran”. Also try “Tehran” and “police” and “corruption”. Try “police” and “middle east” etc… and Books – Finally, search for a book on your country or your specific issue. When you find the book, look for the author’s name and do a google search of him or her. You may be able to find their own website. Books on countries and politics are usually written by academics or journalists, so they may have their own bio up with an email. Don’t hesitate to email them and ask for any help. They may be able to write an affidavit attesting to their knowledge of the human rights abuses that occur in your country.

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Tips on Preparing for an Asylum Interview

This guide will give you some tips on preparing for your asylum interview in front of the asylum officer.

Practice Telling Your Story – Find a friend that you trust and tell them your story. If you are going to be using an interpreter, have an interpreter present when you are practicing. Allow your friend to ask you questions and listen carefully to the questions that your friend asks as they may provide you with an idea of where your story is confusing or missing details.

Prepare an Outline – Prepare an outline of your story so that you can remember the main points and especially the names and dates. You will want to highlight all the instances of persecution no matter how small. It is also important to make sure that you understand the order that the events occurred. You should also re-read your application so you know what you put down.

Tell the Truth – You MUST tell the truth even if you think that it is not helpful to your case. If you do not, it will likely hurt you in the end. Sometimes omitting important facts is the same thing as lying. However, in some cases, it may be okay not to volunteer information unless asked. An attorney will help you decide when and when not to disclose certain facts.

Speak Slowly and Listen Carefully – Sometimes the Asylum Officer will be typing everything you say. If you speak quickly he or she may not hear something important. You will have to speak very slowly. You will also need to listen very carefully to his questions and try to answer his precise question first before elaborating.

Details – The officer will want to hear details. The more details you can provide the more likely he will believe your claim. He or she may have just read your asylum application that day, or maybe not at all, so you will have to treat the interview as if he is hearing everything for the first time.

Beliefs – Be prepared to talk about your beliefs especially the ones that your claim is based on. If you are claiming political asylum, it’s probably important that you can explain your political beliefs. If you are seeking religious asylum you should know something about your religion. You do not need to be an expert, but at least know enough for the officer to believe that you are a member of that religion or political party.

Snack – Have a snack before your interview, but not too much. You may be waiting for an hour and the interview may last an hour or more so you want to be comfortable.

Attorney – You really should be working with an attorney who has experience in asylum law. The application is just as important as the interview. An attorney will make sure that you have a strong application with a significant amount of evidence. Some asylum applications may be over 150 pages in length. An attorney will be able to best prepare you and attend the interview with you. At the interview an attorney will mostly stay silent but they may speak of if they feel that the asylum officer is out of line or if there is any miscommunication. An attorney can also ask you questions in front of the officer at the end in case there is important information that the Asylum officer forgot to ask you or you forgot to provide.


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How Do I Apply For Asylum?

Good link on general information regarding the Asylum process. This information is provided by the United States Citizenship and Immigration Service. Please note, Asylum Law is very complicated and everchanging. Asylum can sometimes be a life or death matter. It is important to contact a licensed immigration attorney when applying for Asylum. The majority of asylum cases in the U.S. are denied. Having your case presented by an attorney significantly increases ones chances of being granted asylum by the U.S. Government.


Posted by on February 23, 2010 in Immigration Law, Refugees


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International Law and the Detention of Refugees (Asylum Seekers)

The following is an excerpt from the section I wrote for the One America/Seattle University 2008 Report : Voices from Detention: A Report on Human Rights Violations at the Northwest Detention Center in Tacoma, WA.

Nations have recognized that there are certain communities and groups of people who are the most vulnerable and require further protections. Refugees and asylum-seekers have been identified as one of these most vulnerable communities. Additional treaties and rights apply to both asylum-seekers and refugees. The primary source of international law regarding the treatment of refugees is the Convention Relating to the Status of Refugees (hereinafter “the Convention” drafted shortly after and as a result of WWII, as well as the Protocol Relating to the Status of Refugees.

A refugee is any person who has “a well-founded fear of being persecuted for reasons of race, religion, nationality, membership of a particular social group or political opinion, is outside the country of his nationality and is unable or, owing to such fear, is unwilling to avail himself of the protection of that country; or who, not having a nationality and being outside the country of his former habitual residence as a result of such events, is unable or, owing to such fear, is unwilling to return it.”

The Protocol (to which the U.S. is a party) that expanded the temporal geographic protections of the original Convention. The Convention codifies previous international instruments relating to refugees and provides the most comprehensive codification of the rights of refugees under international law. The United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR) Detention Guidelines provide further guidance to the convention articles regarding the detention of refugees. Although the guidelines are not binding, the U.S. Supreme Court has stated that a similar document, the UNHCR Handbook on Procedures and Criteria for Determining Refugee Status, provides significant guidance when interpreting the Convention.  The same should be true of the guidelines.

According to the United Nations High Commissioner on Refugees (UNHCR), the detention of refugees and those seeking asylum is “inherently undesirable.” Pursuant to the Convention, recognized refugees and asylum seekers whose cases are pending should not be detained except for a brief period of time to confirm their identity.  In addition, in order to prevent psychological harm to vulnerable refugees, unaccompanied elderly persons, torture or trauma victims and persons with a mental or physical disability should only be detained “on the certification of a qualified medical practitioner that detention will not adversely affect their health and well being. In addition there must be regular follow up and support by a relevant skilled professional. They must also have access to services, hospitalization, and medication counseling etc. should it become necessary.”

The Convention places obligations on all States in relation to refugees, whether or not they have been formally recognized as refugees.  Article 26 requires that refugees who are lawfully in the territory have the right to move freely in that territory. The term “lawfully” under Article 26 is satisfied by the fact that United States law authorizes refugees to remain in the U.S. while their status is being verified.

Article 31 states that refugees who have entered the country illegally or without authorization should not be penalized, provided that they present themselves within a reasonable amount of time and show good cause for their illegal entry. Penalization would include unnecessary detention. Article 31(2) prohibits restrictions on refugeesʼ movements unless such restrictions are necessary, typically long enough only to ascertain his or her identity.  Article 31 is especially relevant to the detention of immigrants because refugees who enter the United States often do so unlawfully. Refugees often must flee at a momentʼs notice, and there is little time to secure a valid visa. In addition, fear of persecution by the government they are fleeing may require the use of false identification.

It is important to note that asylum seekers arriving in the U.S. without proper documents are subject to ʻexpedited removalʼ in which undocumented immigrants, including asylum-seekers, arriving at ports of entry are subject to immediate removal without a judicial hearing. If the immigrant expresses a desire to apply for asylum or a fear of persecution in his or her home country, he or she will be afforded an initial “credible fear” hearing by an immigration officer. If the officer finds he or she has no credible fear, he or she will be removed without the ability to appeal or have his or her case heard by an immigration judge. If he or she is found to have a “credible fear,” he or she will be subjected to mandatory detention until a decision is made on his or her case by an immigration judge, or an appellate body, a process that could take years.

The United Statesʼ practice of detaining refugees pursuant to expedited removal procedures is a violation of Article 26 and Article 31 of the Convention. The U.S. is violating Article 26 by restricting the movement of refugees in general and Article 31(2) by detaining refugees for longer than for identification purposes. Unless the refugee poses a threat, refugees should not be detained even while their formal recognition of their status is pending. Despite Article 31(2) and the Department of Homeland Security having the discretion to parole refugees, the U.S. has recently made it more difficult to parole refugees currently in detention. On November 6th 2007, ICE issued new guidelines on the paroling of refugees in detention. These guidelines further limit the release of refugees from detention and are inconsistent with international refugee and human rights law.

Refugees should not be held in detention for any amount of time longer than necessary to procure their correct identification, and once they are in detention, they are entitled to certain protections under international law. For example, Article 16 of the Convention requires that refugees have free access to courts of law with regard to legal assistance. Asylum seekers should also have the right and the means to communicate with their representatives in private. It is important to ensure that detention not constitute an obstacle to an asylum seekers’ pursuance of their asylum application.

To read the entire report go to

To read the Convention and Protocol Relating to the Status of Refugees go to

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Posted by on February 12, 2010 in Human Rights


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