Patterns and evidence of human rights violations among US asylum seekers

Michael S. Miller, Megan R. D’Andrea, Eileen Wang, Elizabeth K. Singer, Kim A. Baranowski

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

2 Scopus citations


Background: Asylum seekers report exposure to human rights violations associated with a range of psychological and medical sequelae. Clinical evaluators can provide forensic evaluations that document evidence associated with their reports of persecution. The aim of this study was to characterize the forms of abuse experienced by asylum seekers, the psychological consequences of abuse, and the frequency with which clinician-evaluators found evidence that corroborated asylum seekers’ reports. Method: We completed a retrospective chart review of 121 asylum seekers who received pro bono medical-legal evaluations through a human rights program and analyzed data using the constant comparative method. Results: Eighty-eight percent of the clients reported experiencing multiple human rights abuses. Ninety-one percent of the clients who received psychological evaluations presented with symptoms associated with depression, anxiety, or trauma and stressor-related disorders. Clinician-evaluators found physical or psychological evidence consistent with the clients’ reports in 97% of cases. Forms, perpetrators, and psychological consequences of abuse varied significantly by gender and geographic region. Discussion: Asylum seekers report diverse forms of persecution in their countries of origin that differ by gender and geographic region. Clinician-evaluators overwhelmingly found physical and psychological evidence consistent with the asylum seekers’ accounts of persecution.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)693-699
Number of pages7
JournalInternational Journal of Legal Medicine
Issue number2
StatePublished - Mar 2021


  • Asylum seekers
  • Forensic evidence
  • Gender-based violence
  • Human rights


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