How Do You Measure Persecution?

Asylum seekers fleeing their countries don’t pack a suitcase with evidence, board a flight, and arrive at their asylum interview with a membership card of a political opposition party.

Recent tragic refugee deaths in the Mediterranean have proven how difficult it can be to reach Europe to claim asylum. But getting to Europe is just the first step. In many cases, receiving asylum requires evidence of persecution that can be difficult to produce.

European governments have signed international treaties that require them to offer protection to those who have a well-founded fear of being persecuted in their home countries for reasons of race, religion, nationality, political opinion, or membership in a particular group. But if you are a refugee, how can you prove that? Asylum seekers fleeing their countries don’t pack a suitcase with evidence, board a flight, and arrive at their asylum interview with a membership card of a political opposition party.

When asylum seekers file a claim, the first thing that happens is an interview with a government official who decides whether their story is plausible. This is where things can start to get messy. How many people’s lives fit a simple, linear narrative? If you look at your own family photographs, many of them documenting the most important events of your life, can you truly vouch for exactly when and how the milestones they show occurred?

Even if the asylum seeker can produce evidence, the people evaluating their claim may have their own biases. One interviewer at the French Office for the Protection of Refugees and Stateless People noted in her denial of an asylum seeker’s claim that the woman didn’t show any emotion when describing how she was raped. In another case, a man fleeing persecution in Afghanistan told his interviewer he was a driver, but had his claim rejected when he was unable to produce a driver’s license.

The French asylum court routinely rejects official identity documents from the Democratic Republic of the Congo (DRC) as fake, despite evidence from asylum lawyers that the DRC’s low-grade printing presses are the reason for variations in print quality. An example of just how ridiculous things can get can be found in the phallometric tests used by the Czech authorities until 2011, which, by measuring blood circulation in a man’s penis when he was shown pornographic material, could supposedly ascertain whether an asylum seeker was gay.

How can such dubious decision making still be used in today’s data-obsessed world? Today, no business would be launched without a thorough analysis of the market, no matter how small. You wouldn’t buy a house without first conducting careful research to make sure the price was fair. Why are decisions about people’s lives and security made without proper evidence?  

Access is one problem. Evaluating evidence for specific aspects of a claim requires knowledge of the region and its language, and ideally a network in the field to access and verify information or documents.

Financial resources are also a problem. Asylum lawyers in France receive about 370 euros from the government for each claim they work on. Reading up on the political situation in the claimant’s country of origin or checking even very basic facts must be done in these lawyers’ spare time. The financial crisis has made things even worse—in the UK, spending cuts have severely impacted lawyers’ abilities to research evidence for claims, while in financially reeling Greece, very limited legal aid is available to a few asylum NGOs only.

Governments and courts conduct their own research on asylum seekers’ countries of origin, but in only a few European countries is this data publicly available and accessible to asylum activists and lawyers.

Even when evidence is available, it is often used improperly. Amnesty International analyzed a sample of asylum claims [PDF] in the UK that were overturned on appeal. It found that in most cases, judges did not make proper use of the evidence available, erroneous assessments of the applicants’ credibility were made, and even tiny inconsistencies were enough to dismiss applications.

Asylum and migration are two of today’s most contentious issues. They lie at the heart of the question of what kind of Europe we want to live in. In these times of economic hardship, who is in and who is out?

If empathy and a moral obligation aren’t enough, at the very least, we should worry about asylum for selfish reasons. If the legal system does not even make an effort to thoroughly examine the cases of people potentially fearing for their lives, how can we be sure it will treat us fairly when we need it? Only when we can ensure that our legal system works for the most vulnerable can we trust that it will work for all of us. 

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If we can't get along then we will perish! This will require a different way thinking, if want survive ourselves. What is a person who doesn't make the world a better place!? Remember, before we leave this planet, we have responsibility to leave the planet better than before!

This is an insightful essay or writeup concerning asylum seekers in Europe. The uphill task for the seeker to proof his case in circumstances that involve weeks, months or years of travelling from place to place leaving behind or loosing most of the things they left with fromtheir country of originis the unspeakable truth that can describe the fate of the asylum seekers. Working in the early stages of legal and pchycological orientation with refugees in Italy has proven this clearly. Thanks for thinking clearly on this issue and hope to contribute in the global solutions sharing of the refugees question.

According to, Senators Dianne Feinstein, Barbara Boxer, and Dick Durbin have made statements indicating that they may join the Republican attack on sanctuary cities. What can they be thinking?

Back in Reagan time, Salvadoran refugees were unlikely to be admitted into the U.S. because it was the U.S.-backed Salvadoran government they were fleeing for their lives.

This issue has to be adressed having the human been in mind.

I personally have experienced such mis judgement as an asylum seeker while I produced concrete evidences and until ten years later a positive decision was taken but during all this time one was not considered equally to others, could not work and so on. T will stand against that system of hypocrisy from European country who signed the Geneva convention and human right chart. Those people fleeing from Africa, taking risk and loosing their lives in the mediterranean do not do it for pleasure but seek for protection in a safe country. They are just victims of Imperialism and fake democracy imposed to african Dictatorship to prevent their own people from freedom while working for the benefit of certains european countries !!! ALL MUST STOP.

Insufficient documentation is what the Asylum Court latches on to deny asylum applicant. The fact that the applicant's fail to show documents conencting him/n\her to the event necessitating the assylum request does not rebut the facts. My point is that dearth of evidence of national commitment does not defeat national life.

The South African Goverment has decades ago opened its doors to asylum seekers from all over Africa.South Africa has well over 5 million asylum seekers living and working in South Africa and they are making a remarkable and meaningfull contribution in all walks of life.Asylum seekers can easily be managed and can contribute to the country offering Asylum ,this has been proven over and over not only in South Africa but in many other countries.

This is the reality asylum seekers are facing even here in South Africa. The worse reality is that they are not assisted by the government or the UNHCR.

One typical example is when asylum seekers are requred to prove they fled their countries of origin because of fear of persecution in the form of arbitrary arrest,torture,intimidation,harassment,montitoring activities..etc. in situations where all these matters are done in secret to prevent the victims' ability to prove his allegations,his fear of further violations,the immunity given to security men that they copuld not be sued for ANY ACTION IN THE COURSE OF DUTY? WITHOUT APPROVAL OF THEIR SUPERIORS and the total lack of judicial independence which makes any efforts to complain futile and subject the victims to further intimiidation.What evidence can he take with him?

Thoroughly examining the cases of people potentially fearing for their lives is the focus of the “CREDO – Improved Credibility Assessment in EU Asylum Procedures” project, led by the Hungarian Helsinki Committee in partnership with UNHCR, the International Association of Refugee Law Judges (IARLJ), Asylum Aid & ECRE, with input from the Centre for the Study of Emotion and Law.

This Europe-wide project has reviewed and collected best practice on adult and child asylum claims and the reports "Beyond Proof" and "The Heart of the Matter" (both available on UNHCR's Refworld) propose a structured approach to the assessment of credibility, and, crucially the importance of multidisciplinary research input.

For example, there is psychological research on the way that women are judged in the law if they don’t show the ‘appropriate’ emotion after being raped.

The CREDO training manual (Vols 1 & 2 also on UNHCR's Refworld) is being used throughout Europe to train decision-makers and others on credibility assessment. As well as the legal approach there are chapters by other professionals on Memory, Trauma, Culture, Gender, Sexuality & Gender Identity, Interpreting and Child development.

We researchers can find the information and produce the scientific evidence, but how to make sure it is available, translated and taken into account by those who hold the most vulnerable lives in their hands?

Jane Herlihy, Centre for the Study of Emotion & Law
(all of our published research is available at

Indeed we need to ensure that all legal systems work for all human beings as of a right as justice must not only be done but must be seen to be done .. This is a cardinal principle in law and justice.

in Canada i was waiting for 2 years to appear at the court regarding to get refugee status as a Hungarian roma.
I've been there 2 times, without lawyer.
I was told by the judge ( after 2 years of waiting ) that without a written evidence by the Hungarian police that i was in danger ( because of my ethnicity in my home town ) i have no any chance and also need a proof that the police haven't done anything or enough to in my case. So actually you need a written document from the police, by the police that they ( the police ) are racist and/or lazy.
I'd say it is kind of funny, but when you are in the situation, when you cannot get a job in your profession ( im an eLearning designer ) only cleaning, or renovation jobs because you are not a citizen, well after 2 years of totally useless waiting, that is not so cool. that's all aboot the Canadian refugee system for the Hungarian romas.

Commenting on this subject adequately would require hours, but I currently have an FGM case in the UK for which I must be the witness. She NEVER attended school, even has difficulty remembering names of villages around and 'hers' is too small to hit google maps!. My hoped for partial solution is to get a Sierra Leonean student I know to take a trip, 4 hours upriver from a town, to find relatives, and interview the foster parent, and confirm she is determined to force our 'client' to force her to become the head of the Bondo society.

We need to figure out a way to integrate these brave people into our societies, not dump them back where they came from.

Desolation totale et reponse inefficace a la crise.

Asylum seekers must be given fair treatment like any other persons. today it is an asylum seeker, and tomorrow should be. we must stop stereotyping our brothers and sisters.

The Asylos post was informative. But one further step the Soros Foundation or OSI could do to help the overwhelmed lawyers is to publish the formal, quantitative criteria for a Closed Society ( obviously the polar opposite of the Soros/Popper Open Society, ) and develop one for a Failed Society, one in terminal chaos. Then in the interviews with the refugees they could focus on their stories of persecution for specific , given criteria. I assume that economic migrants are meant to be excluded from the ranks of asylum seekers. There the GDP of the country and ease of leaving it could be used as criteria, with the use of common sense observations about the age, attitude of these migrants.
I speak as a political refugee in an early part of my life and as an economic migrant on a subsequent occasion. Certain assumptions were made about me in the first instance, without ever undergoing an even cursory interview. Other assumptions were made on the second occasion. Immigration authorities were woefully ignorant about the conditions of the countries I tried to leave. The main criteria seemed to be my manners, appearance, ability to charm them and my attempts to use the language and customs of the receiving country. Both countries I came to were far more interested in my future ability to contribute to them, than any concern for my needs or background.
It so happened that I was in fact persecuted in my home country, and that I was subsequently not needed for the economy and job market of my second country, and that I did fill a useful economic niche of my third, current country. Of course it would have been easier if I came here in the first place, but this country quota for political refugees was filled by the time I applied, way back then. What is ironic that by staying longer in my home land in the aftermath of our Revolution, I was in far more danger than the purely economic migrants who left as soon as the borders were open.
All this happened decades ago. We learnt very little since then
I won't even allude to the likelihood that sometimes the first people leaving a country in turmoil are the rats from a sinking ship: look at the successful flight of so many nazis after they lost the Second World War. In the current environment we should be aware that people may be fleeing from just prosecution or retribution.
These are complex but solvable issues. OSI has the experience and perspective to offer specific solutions and standards beyond just playing on our heart strings. I have and always had sympathy for my fellow refugees and those from other oppressive regimes. I also had respect for people who sought to better their economic lives while not u gratefully abandoning their first or second homelands. Having said that , I remember just too many fakes, exploiters, confidence men, thieves and liars among the " huddled masses yearning to be free" . Focusing on the poor practices and ignorance of the receiving country is only helpful if one also takes into account the multiple motivations and highly variable level of " deserved ness" of prospective migrants and refugees.
Been there done that.

I'm an American living in Sacramento area, and I'm seriously wondering about asylum in Canada, due to the political , racist, corrupt climate!! I blame much of this on the so called new world order crowd. We need to do better, and we need to stop being a police state.

I call on European governments to improve the procedures and properly resource the lawyers acting for applicants in asylum claims in your countries.

You are absolutely right. The sad thing is when people who are not bona fide refugees are able to construct stories which 'tick all the boxes' for ill-informed immigration officers but those with real, and often complicated, stories are not believed. I have seen cases where the interviewer thought they knew the country situation well but they missed very important factors. And the asylum seeker was treated horribly because the interviewer insisted they "knew" the facts about the country and that the refugee was fabricating. So terribly frustrating for people who have already suffered, have lost their homes or families but now are treated as untrustworthy criminals

Every open mind should know that,there was an assumption of the superiority of the Colonizer,military and intellectual, in the minds of the Western nations when they pounced upon the Asian and African for plunder of their wealth and disturbing their native life-styles,habits and values. The migration that happens now is a natural, equal and opposite reaction !

A new set of VALUES that would respect and sustain every unit of life on earth is what the enlightened West must now probe over, instead of blindly following the same faulty world-view that they followed during colonial times.
See what Erich Fromm says on the subject: ' a stage has come where the problem of production has been virtually solved, the problem of the organization of social life has become the paramount task of mankind"

European governments should improve their procedures and the resources needed to by the lawyers to act for the people in asylum claims in various countries.The state of which the asylum claim should be properly looked into before related legal action is met.

The seeds we plant today will produce tomorrows harvest. What kind of world will be our legacy? We did not get to this point by accident! Until we face up to and sincerely address the causes of displacement, corruption, and discrimination we cannot magically contain or eradicate the effects.

Past erroneous judgments and practices, some of which are still significant today, continue to haunt and pursue us yet we learn nothing! It is time to stop defending the indefensible and indelible past...we are human after all - lacking foresight and therefore prone to making shortsighted decisions. Lets show we can at least learn and improve with hindsight!

In my view, these asylum seekers should be provided with home rentals and jobs based on their existing reputations from other online services. Recently, I came to know about Reputationaire, a company that is providing such services to its customers. Anyone of you heard about Reputationaire and their services?

Question is if you are a United States citizen and there's a war on drugs that Richard Nixon put in place decades ago and we are still calling a war on drugs and drug addicts what are they refugees of this war what are the rights in this war it's not their choice that all of a sudden we got bombarded by narcotics is there any help for these people in this war we are focused on other countries but I think we should be more focused on this country cuz we need just as much help as those other countries just in a different manner I'm not sure if I'm working this correctly but I'm trying not to make any vulgar statements but it's something that probably we should look into and address for the safety of our own country and its people

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